Day trips introduce New England to international visitors

At lobster bakes, don’t drink the melted butter

By Kristen O’Reilly

UMass Medical School Communications

August 18, 2011

Imagine working or learning at a university in a foreign country, and not having the opportunity to get off campus to experience the area’s natural beauty. For international students, faculty and researchers who are here at UMass Medical School on a visa, the Immigration Services Office sponsors day trips to iconic New England locations so they can experience the area while making connections with fellow community members.

“I absolutely love sharing the beauty of New England with our visitors,” said Michelle Deignan, immigration coordinator for the Human Resources Compliance and Immigration Services Office. “It’s a change of scenery, a chance to meet new friends and relax with family and friends.”

Deignan has coordinated the twice-yearly day trips for the past 15 years, traveling to Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine; the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, Maine; the White Mountains and the Castle in the Clouds in New Hampshire; and Martha’s Vineyard, Sturbridge Village and the Garden in the Woods in Massachusetts.

The trips—one in June and one in September or October—are very popular, especially with families, Deignan said. The most recent trip to Martha’s Vineyard in June was one of the largest yet, attracting 90 participants who traveled on two buses. While coordinating the trips challenges her organizational skills , Deignan said she enjoys seeing the reaction of participants when they see something as beautiful as the Maine coastline for the first time.

“We’ve done a lobster bake, and sometimes this is the first time they’ve seen steamers. They’re not really sure what to do with them. We have to tell them to not drink the melted butter,” she said.

The U.S. Department of State actually requires institutions with J1 Exchange Visitor Programs to offer cultural programs to these international visitors, some of whom could be in the country for a few months to five years for researchers and up to seven years for physicians-in-training. About 600 UMMS community members have registered with the Immigration Services Office to receive notices about upcoming events such as the day trips. The office also sponsors immigration orientation sessions twice a month and co-sponsors the very popular International Fair each year.

The next trip will be to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, including stops at the Lost River Gorge and Cannon Mountain, on Saturday, Sept. 17. The deadline for registering is Sept. 6. For more information, contact Deignan at michelle.deignan@umassmed.edu or 508-856-3344.

See a slideshow from a recent trip to Maine here: