International students face challenges on campus

Abdullah Rashed speaks to international students during International Social Hour.

Sarah Minkewicz/The Record

Abdullah Rashed speaks to international students during International Social Hour.

Sarah Minkiewicz, Associate News Editor

Every year, SUNY Buffalo State becomes the home for students from places such as Italy, Spain and the Middle East, but international students still face challenges while trying to adapt to the American culture and their new lives on campus.

Jean Gounard, director of international student affairs, is committed to making sure the international students are comfortable in their new setting and are able to succeed in their classes, as well as address any health or judicial problem that may occur while they’re studying here.

“Our main job is to do what their parents would do,” Gounard said. “We have constant communication with them. This isn’t a typical 9 to 5 job. We are on duty all the time.”

Gounard added that international students come into this country without fully understanding the way society works, and they need guidance from their teachers, especially with their classes, in order to keep up with their lessons.

“The internationals are very dedicated individuals,” Gounard said. He also added that the internationals do need help with staying on the right track to not fall behind on schoolwork.

“They don’t know all the details that go into orientation or what add/drop week is,” Gounard said. “It’s our job to take care of them.”

Abdullah Rashed, an international student at Buffalo State and originally from Kuwait, also a writer for The Record, said at last week’s International Social Hour that education in the United States is far more advanced than back in his country.

“I studied in Kuwait from first to twelfth grades in public school,” Rashed said. “The standard of the education system is really weak there, and the teachers do not have enough abilities to teach.”

The higher standard of education in America is one of the main reasons why he chose to attend college in this country versus his home.

Rashed also added that the government in his home country does care that students get a higher education and therefore allows students such as Rashed to study abroad.

According to Gounard, another problem international students face is the high cost of tuition. International students end up paying three times as much for tuition. The students pay almost $17,000 to study at Buffalo State for a year, and around $30,000 when you factor in room and board. However, Gounard said several students are able to get scholarships from their home country to study in the United States, such as the 40 students that are from Brazil. All 40 of them have full scholarships.

For the students that don’t acquire a scholarship, they must provide proof that they’re able to support themselves financially. International students also can’t work off campus while studying in the United States. They must be full-time students to be undergraduate students and take at least nine credits to be a graduate student. International students can work and volunteer on campus, but anything off-campus and you run into problems with Homeland Security.

“In the eyes of Homeland Security, it’s considered illegal employment,” Gounard said. “They need to get permission for that. Homeland Security says they can come full-time, pay their tuition and go back home.”

Gounard and the International Student Advisory Council try to bring students at Buffalo State, international or not, together to meet, interact and learn from each other during the International Social Hour that’s held each week in the Student Union’s Assembly Hall.

“I feel the college provides many activities for the students,” Rashed said about the international social hour. “They can join and learn from these activities, so the international students just need to be brave and confident about themselves, introducing themselves to the other students and join them. Have fun and be friendly.”

“The internationals is a tight club,” Gounard said. “They stick together.”

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