By Kelsey Allen
International Education Week at Cleveland State University celebrated 19 years with five days of events, organized by Rita Kizys, Graduate Assistant for the Center for International Services and Programs (CISP).
“It’s always great when a lot of students show up,” said Kizys. “For each event, we had a good turnout. Even for the International Stress Bingo, [and] we had never done anything like that before.”
The week kicked off with the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, where students could write notes to international students letting them know that we are happy to have them here at Cleveland State. The hashtag is a part of a nationwide campaign that many universities are participating in to show international students that their campus is a welcoming and safe environment for them.
“We want to make sure that we are very actively telling them that they belong here, [that] we want them here, [that] they are part of the Cleveland State community, [and that] they bring a lot to CSU – just as much as they are going to get from CSU,” said Roberto Arruda, Coordinator of Sponsored Student Programs.
There is currently a little over 1,200 international students enrolled here at Cleveland State. The highest percentage of international students are from India, followed by Saudi Arabia.
Students who were born in the States might only know CISP for its study abroad program. Cleveland State University offers faculty-led programs, affiliate programs, and reciprocal exchanges to a number of countries. Past Cleveland State students have studied in Argentina, China, Costa Rica, England, Ghana, France, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates.
Louis Walee, who is pursuing his Master of Arts in Global Interactions, is always excited to share his insight on the study abroad program.
“I like encouraging students to study abroad because I myself studied abroad, and it feels nice to encourage others to experience the same journey that I had,” said Walee.
However, CISP doesn’t just work with American students looking to travel – they also assist international students feel more at ease here at Cleveland State. Most international students in attendance are degree-seeking students, and every international student must participate in the V.I.P. (Vikes Info Passport) program when they first arrive at the university.
“During the program, we introduce the students to campus offices, the rules and regulations they have to follow with their visa, how to stay enrolled, resources on campus, how to use CampusNet…just everything to get them started as a student here,” Kizys explained. V.I.P. programs are held at the beginning of each semester.
International students face a number of obstacles that American students never have to worry about. There isn’t just one type of visa that they all apply for, but five different types that may or may not apply to their situation.
Students who are here full-time and seeking a degree will apply for an F-1 visa, and any of their dependents who are joining them in America will apply for an F-2 visa. Students who are here for short-term programs and are typically not degree-seeking students will apply for a J-1 short-term visa. These students are also often being sponsored by an institution in their home country and are coming to study as a result of a partnership between the two institutions.
Dependents of the J-1 visa holder apply for a J-2 visa. There are many other visas that immigrants may apply for.
CISP focuses its services around students who are here under a visa, but many students without a visa face a different concern: the potential termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA.
DACA was created in 2012 by President Obama to protect undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. before they turned 16. DACA protects them from deportation, as well as allows them to work legally and obtain a driver’s license. DACA recipients have to reapply every two years.
There are currently about 1.9 million people eligible for DACA in the United States, and almost 800,000 of them are protected from deportation. Close to 50 percent of undocumented people in the U.S. came here before their sixth birthday, but DACA was designed only for children who arrived between the 1990s and mid-2000s. Those who arrived before or after this time period are ineligible.
Of the 45 of DACA recipients currently in school, 72 percent are pursuing a Bachelor’s degree or higher according to the Center for American Progress.
Under the current administration, DACA may be ending. This means that in the next two years, 800,000 people may lose deportation protections and their ability to work in the US legally. All they can do is hope that Congress will pass a bill within the next few months that protects DACA recipients.
On how non-international students can help international students feel more welcome, Arruda says, “One of the big ways domestic students can help international students is by bridging the cultural gap. There is so much that is unknown to an international student when they arrive here… if the domestic students can help the international students better understand the culture here, how to make friends, how to become part of a group, how to connect and engage and become a part of different student organizations, that would be very helpful.”