The Office of International Affairs welcomed roughly 900 students from 61 different countries this semester, achieving the highest number to date.
Lead Immigration Specialist Cheryl Borowiak, said there have been around 370 new international students this fall, making it around 900 students total. She said most students come from India, Nepal and Nigeria.
Borowiak said the office of international affairs helps an additional 250 students through Optional Practice Training (OPT), a program that helps individuals get experience in the workforce and maintain their visas.
“They're offered a year, plus possibly two years if they're in a STEM field, to be able to have the opportunity to work in the workforce,” Borowiak said. “We help them maintain their visa status, above and beyond the time that they're here enrolled.”
Borowiak said the increase in international student enrollment for this semester is likely largely related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the pandemic, students weren't able to come, visas were slowed at the US consulates around the world,” Borowiak said. “The backlog with the Department of State issuing visas has caused this backlog of visas and so all of a sudden, I think we're seeing a boost.”
Mary Weishaar, executive director of international affairs, said she believes the COVID-19 pandemic has played a large role in the increased number of international students this year. She said with visa services being shut down, many prospective students weren’t able to attend SIUE.
“Students just weren't able to come and they wanted to come, so there's sort of a pent-up demand and now things have really opened up,” Weishaar said. “I think students are just trying to get their visas and wanting to come to study with us.”
International student programming advisor, John Ampomah, said the office of international affairs provides students with the information on COVID-19 vaccines and travel accommodations.
Ampomah said the international affairs office assists students with airport pickups, registering for classes, applying for visas and other accommodations.
“We send them all this information, help guide them through this application, accommodation, everything,” Ampomah said. “We kind of connect and send them information even before they get here.”
Borowiak said that the higher admissions could also be a result of SIUE’s great job at promoting and recruiting.
“Admissions has been working really hard to recruit new students,” Borowiak said. “I think there are some communities that have spread the word and helped us along with that.”
Borowiak said the support that international affairs gives to students is a large part of what attracts them to SIUE.
“They know that we're going to be a second family to them and that's welcoming,” Borowiak said. “Coming from abroad and not having anyone here is sometimes overwhelming for students, but I think we've got a good counseling, support system, health services, all of these offices that we have in place to help these students be successful is really important.”
Borowiak said the International Hospitality Association does a lot to help international students acclimate to the new environment. She said the IHA welcomes students, gives them second hand items and offers homes for them to stay in over holiday breaks.
“That's nice that they can do that and offer that support and environment, especially during the holidays when all of us Americans are spending it with our families here, at least they have someone to spend their time with,” Borowiak said.
Weishaar said SIUE’s strong programs and supportive staff and faculty encourages international students to attend the university.
“I think word of mouth has really made a difference,” Weishaar said. “I think people are leaving here and they're going home and they're telling their family and friends.”
Ampomah said there’s an orientation for international students, where they can meet new people and go over important immigrant regulations that students must follow to maintain their studies.
“We also invite the campus community and different units to come and talk to the students and organize resources for the students and we make sure that they transition smoothly,” Ampomah said. “They also get to kind of get all the support to let them know that we are here for them.”
For more information, visit the international affairs website.
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