International students beat odds,  cut through red tape to make it to SIUE

Faiza Khan, a graduate student studying geotechnical engineering with a specialization in civil engineering from Hyderabad, India working in an engineering lab.

When most students get ready to go to SIUE, they load up their stuff in the car and drove somewhere from a few minutes to hours in order to attend the school. Around 400 international students have a more complex road to SIUE. 

Last year there were 373 international students from 64 countries at SIUE, according to the 2017 university fact book.

The process starts with International Admissions, who take multiple different approaches in order to attract international students. 

“You know, a lot of students nowadays, just like American students, are finding out about schools on the web,” James Monahan, director of International Admissions said. 

To help make their website more accessible for international students, recent updates have made the site available in multiple different languages. 

International Admissions also goes to recruitment fairs internationally and makes visits to high schools and colleges. 

This allows SIUE to not only attract college freshmen, but also transfer and graduate students. 

Just like American students, international students can apply online. 

The only substantial difference is that they don’t require SAT or ACT scores, and instead rely more heavily on their high school or college grades.

“That’s because those tests are based in English,” Monahan said,”and if English isn’t your first language, you may be smart enough, but it’s a language issue where you wouldn’t score as high.”

Students are required to take an English test to make sure that their English is good enough to succeed in their classes. If it’s not, they have the option to go take a course called ESLI on campus for a year.

Graduate students sometimes have to take standardized tests or submit letters of recommendation in order to get into their schools of choice, but these processes are also in place for many American students. 

Once a student is accepted, they must show they can financially support themselves for a year. 

After income verification, they get a document called an I-20 or a DS-2019 that they take to the embassy to apply for a visa.

“They have to give financial proof for one year of study,” Rachel Webb, lead immigration specialist for the Office of International Affairs said. “That includes everything, so it’s about $34,000 for undergrads and like $30,000 for graduate students.”

Once the documents are in order, they go to the nearest embassy, which can vary from being in a nearby city to being in a whole different country, with all the documentation they need. 

At the embassy, they get an interview that is between 30 seconds and two minutes, in which they are asked a variety of questions. 

“I think the overall worldwide visa rate approval for student visas is 90 percent,” Webb said, “but obviously in some countries, in some situations, it’s going to be lower and it’s going to be more difficult.” 

From there, the time it takes for a student to get approved for a visa will vary based on a number of factors. 

In some countries, it may be a few weeks, but in other countries, it may take a few months.

Then, a week before school begins, they have to attend an orientation at SIUE. This orientation covers topics such as immigration, healthcare, insurance and safety. 

“There’s definitely a focus on what we think is most important,” Webb said. 

Once the students are on campus, International Student Services offers continuous support, whether answering questions or offering programs to help students adjust and become more informed.

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