Fact: international is a catch all term used to label any student that does not have US citizenship.
What it means: cultural/ biological/ human similarities are ignored. Citizens of the USA can simultaneously be ethnically Chinese, African, Mexican or middle eastern. They can be any skin color, eye color, or ability. They can be kind, mean, loving or distant, academically gifted or intelligent in another way. This natural variation in us all is ignored when the line is drawn between international and domestic students.
Fact: the differences are political in origin.
What it means: it means inequality on campus will continue. Domestic students allowed 22 hours of work weekly and international students restriction to 20 hours weekly is a labor inequality not based on any measurable or objective reasoning on differences in international vs domestic students’ ability to cope with the work load, but specifically for political purposes.
Fact: US education involves higher risk for international students on average.
What it means: Social risk- some students can be labeled along with their families as traitors to their country for studying in the USA. If they fail, they may be ostracized, not only as failures for themselves, but in some cases a community that invested in them. Failure may also prevent other parents allowing their children to study abroad. Even in success, many of us return home to labels that point to our new knowledge as foreign, undermining the work we did.
Economic risk- application fees and college tuition may be borrowed or given to the student by family and community members, often three times as much as US domestic students pay for the same or less access. Failure may not only impact the student and their immediate family, but the broader community. When we arrive in the US, hidden costs or costs not accurately represented can often severely impact our day to day survival in the USA. Imagine studying with the looming threat of being kicked out of classes because you cannot pay $2000 in surprise fees that were not a part of a “full tuition waiver”. For international students, being kicked out of classes often equates to kicked out of the country. Visa violations mean leave now and never come back. No refunds.
Fact: we are not a protected group.
What it means: As international students and scholars, we can be stigmatized and targeted in policy, rhetoric and public discourse for our noncitizen status. Regulations of labor opportunities; segregated housing; separate but equal programming; restrictions on advancement, tenure, and independent consulting; mandatory medical testing and vaccinations can all be standard for international students and scholars. Public institution leadership cannot openly stand up to protect our human dignity against the public rhetoric. Especially those with public funding when presidential candidates are speaking negatively against international cultures and policy states they cannot speak in a way that would influence an election. This also means, we cannot feel ultimately safe when speaking up for ourselves.
Fact: most students, faculty and staff, believe international students have all the opportunities and goals of domestic students.
What it means: when we are unsuccessful, it is blamed on a deficiency within us. Inefficient systems in academia that can be improved for all students remain unaddressed. More programming effort is spent on getting lecturers to understand learning elements of one culture, than thorough studies to show how domestic and international students are impacted by poor teaching methods and institutional process or policy. Faculty measure the success of their students based on US-centric measures of success (jobs, publications, pay rate etc.).
Fact: we are very similar, but very different. Just like every other student on campus.
What it means: We value the education available in US academia. We pay a high premium for the opportunity and we deserve the respect and consideration all students deserve.
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Disclaimer: it is impossible for anyone to know all the issues facing all international students. This is based on my experience and the experience of those I have interacted with directly.
Sincerely,Ancilleno Davis, M.Sc.