Editor’s note: As 2023 ends, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of our favorite times with International Student and Scholar Services. This is the first of three stories highlighting those 2023 ISSS memories.
CHICAGO — Twenty minutes and a few seconds, give or take, depending on how fast someone could walk.
That was roughly how long it took for an incoming University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) international student to walk from Terminal 5, with their luggage in tow, all the way to the (former) bus/shuttle center across the street from the Hilton Hotel at Chicago O’Hare International Airport.
In between there were stairs, an elevator or escalator depending on how many bags you had, a “people mover” (the Airport Transit System which is like a train), some more stairs, a ramp, another elevator, twists, turns, a curve, maybe a street and a hotel lobby if you took the wrong turn, a few hallways, a million signs and finally an old bus center.
But the relief students felt when they finally saw the brilliant red and blue bus/shuttle center sign after a journey across the world and an airport made the 20-minute, give-or-take, sprint across O’Hare seem like nothing.
In August 2023, International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) resumed its shuttle services for incoming international students who were traveling from O’Hare to the University of Illinois Urbana-
This was the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic ISSS offered shuttle services. The last shuttle service was in 2019.
This year’s shuttle service started at 10 a.m. on August 11 and spanned across four days with the last bus leaving O’Hare at 4 p.m. on August 14.
Marta Schneider, Director for Global Communication and one of the folks behind a successful shuttle service, said there were 22 Peoria Charter buses that picked up students and drove the three hours to campus.
The shuttle service takes months of planning. New international students sign up for the service and coordinate their arrival time around one of the days offered.
After arriving and going through immigration and customs, students make their way to where they need to sign in for their bus time. This year the registration tables were in the former bus center.
Staff and the charter bus driver load luggage onto the bus and send students off. Once students arrived on the campus, they were welcomed by more ISSS staff and student volunteers and guided to their next stop before starting their new adventure.
Jennifer Park, an Assistant Director at ISSS and another person behind the success of this year’s shuttle service, said in total 606 new international students traveled on those buses.
Overall, this year’s shuttle weekend was successful, and Schneider and Park credit that success to the teamwork from ISSS and Illinois International staff, folks across campus, and the Chicago Department of Aviation and O'Hare staff.
“What made this initiative so successful is the campus-wide collaboration aspect,” Schneider said. “There were a lot of individuals supporting the project from different parts of the university. While students may not have seen all those people, it wouldn’t have happened without them.”
Analicia Haynes is the storyteller and social media specialist for Global Communication. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.