Foreign students adjust, one cortadito at a time

Photo by Consuelo Naranjo

Consuelo Naranjo/ Staff writer

Photo by Consuelo Naranjo

Farewells at the airport are the first step into a University for thousands of international students  who, during their education, find more challenges than just deadlines, assignments and homework.

“Being an only child, studying away from home is self-sacrificing. China has a different social structure, values and way of living than the United States,” said Juan Du, a graduate student in the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

In 2012, Florida International University received a total of 2,938 international students: 978 undergrads and 1,230 graduates.

“FIU is well known around the world for its diversity of ethnicity, bright futures and extraordinary worldwide study programs. We represent Miami, a city rich in culture and unique people,” said Mark B. Rosenberg, University president, at the International Students Welcome Dinner.

International students come from more than 125 countries, the majority of which from China, Venezuela and India. Most of the international applicants register in the schools of Business and Management, Engineering, Journalism and Mass Communications and Hospitality and CSHTM.

Du said she is ready for the challenge, but she had some difficulties adapting to her new environment.

“Studying in a completely different language can be demanding, but I am looking forward to make this opportunity one of the best experiences of my life,” she said.

Some international students also receive financial support and scholarships, which are provided to students with outstanding performance.

In 2010, Ziad Ben Taleb, an international student from Libya, received a Fulbright Scholarship to finish his masters in public health and social work.

Now, as a doctoral student and teaching assistant, Taleb remembers when his homeland went through a revolution against the government last year during the Arab Spring. He was in Miami and lost all communication with his family.

“I was completely devastated. Focusing on my studies was extremely difficult,” he said. “Fortunately, I was surrounded with a supportive circle of friends, most of them members of International Student Club and great professors who offered help when I needed it the most.”

ISC is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering diversity at FIU. According to Ammar Bahsan, public relations representative of ISC, the club is working constantly to create a friendly environment to entertain and educate their members.

“Our mission is to promote inter-cultural communication and understanding among students, as well as to provide academic and social assistance,” he said.

The organization is not exclusively for International Students; anyone can join.

Besides ISC, the University also has the Study Abroad Club. This organization promotes study abroad programs and supplies students with information about application process, regulations and financial support.

“Our school offers amazing credit and noncredit programs to study abroad around the world. We also provide international connections and scholarships to award deserving students,” said Fernando Andres Gualda, vice-president of the club.

With more than 22 years of experience working with international students, Nancy Hernandez, director of International Student and Scholar Services at Biscayne Bay Campus, understands the circumstances that foreign students have to face in the course of their careers.

“Our mission is to inform and help our students with all their concerns in terms their profession and adapting to Miami,” Hernandez said.

Every semester, with the Student Government Association support, the Office of International Student and Scholar Services prepares an agenda as part of campus life activities with workshops and events for students to integrate the students.

This fall the International Student Committee will offer free events open to the public at BBC when students will learn about study abroad programs, immigration rules and commitments while they celebrate exposure to different cultures.

“Participants will also be able to enjoy other people’s languages, traditions and cuisine,” Hernandez said.

Becoming an international student was a life changing experience for Mujtaba Sharief, a biochemistry graduate student.

“From Bollywood movies to the homeland of cortaditos, I traveled 8,500 miles from Bangalore, India to Miami,” Sharief said. “Being far away from my comfort zone and facing new challenges has helped with my auto discovering process. Studying in another country is an opportunity that no one should miss out [on].”

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