International students get what they need
The International Student and Scholar Services Office provides UH’s almost 4,000 non-immigrant international students with the tools to begin their American education and take it back to their country of origin.
International students who come to the University with a temporary visa are greeted on their arrival with a check-in process.
“They have to check in with us and the reason is because our office is in charge of the responsibility of ensuring that the student is on an appropriate visa for study,” said Anita Gaines, director of ISSSO. “There are some types of visas that don’t permit study. Or there may be cases when the international student may have a concern or problem before getting here that we need to see.”
During check-in, the entire staff meets each student individually, who then walks through stations that provide information about everything from how to get housing and how to pay bills to how to obtain a drivers license. The office has trained peer advisors, both American and international, who help with the process.
“There is a lot of information to guide them through when first arriving here,” said Jin Zhang, associate
director of ISSSO.
To help the students feel more comfortable in their new environment, ISSSO has an International Friendship Program that connects them with other students from their country.
Gaines said the process gives arriving students everything they need while studying in America.
“It gives us the opportunity to give them information about how to get started here,” Gaines said. “Beyond check in, we have a two-day orientation where we provide information about the American educational system, about the city, about the University and about the things they are going to need to know to be successful in this country. They have so many additional obstacles that they need to cross, and at least they know where to go for different services.”
The services are available to all international students at UH. According to the Fall Semester 2012 Annual Enrollment Report, there is a total of 40,746 enrolled students at UH, of which 3,520 are non-immigrant international students.
Most non-immigrant students come from China, India and Vietnam, the report said.
These students are also given the opportunity to get work experience on- and off-campus while at UH. ISSSO does this through several training programs designed for different types of international student according to their immigration documents.
“In either case we are involved in helping them with the process to gain authorization to work,” Gaines said. “It has to be related to their major.”
Zhang said that while some students do stay in the U.S. to begin their careers, she thinks most non-immigrant students go back to their country to work. The current economic situation in each country varies, affecting the decisions of students to either stay or go back.
“Some students find that the company likes them and they like the company, so they stay here,” Zhang said. “Some students return home, and I think that is almost always the case. These days we do see more students return home than before, especially people from developing countries.”
India-native Rahul Parthasarathi, an international accounting graduate student, has a different perspective. He said students from underdeveloped countries like his feel that that staying in the U.S. will give them the chance to get back what they put in to their degree.
“People from India actually pay more, because the cost of living here is expensive,” Parthasarathi said. “I spent $40,000 in undergrad. I would like to get that back by working here. Any job here pays more than anything back home. India is at the bottom of the economy chart, because it provides cheap labor among other things. But the U.S is at the top.”
Whether they stay or if they go, both Zhang and Gaines said they are proud to offer all the services they can through the ISSSO to current and future international students. Gaines said having such a prominent international community on the UH campus helps everyone at the University.
“Our university being such a diverse campus, the second most diverse research institution in a city that is known to be the most diverse city in the U.S., puts us in a really unique position to be able to celebrate the diversity here,” Gaines said. “It helps everyone in the community to be better educated about the world. Many people don’t get the opportunity to travel to another country, but you can learn a lot from someone who is from another country.”