University working to create international student scholarships

Written by Joshua Ceballos/Assistant News Director

International students from over 20 countries attend FIU, making the “international” in Florida International University more than just a placeholder.

FIU had 3,508 students from 26 countries during the spring of 2017, according to data emailed to Panther Magazine from the university’s Office of International Student & Scholar Services.

Alejandra Parra, senior director of International Student & Scholar Services, says her office is in charge of assisting incoming students that are acclimating to the American campus and pointing them in the direction of scholarships and services that can help them in a foreign country.

“We provide all those [international] students with guidance even before they arrive, from the moment they apply to the University, we start communicating with those students,” Parra said.

This help involves guiding international students through the process of entering an American university which is different for local students, particularly when it comes to financial aid.

According to Parra, international students need to show proof that they can pay for university before being accepted to study in the United States. These students need to pay out of state tuition out of their own pocket, or else they will not be allowed a student visa.

Once the students arrive here after footing the bill for tuition, they have the opportunity to receive scholarships to pay for their tuition. International students also do not qualify for FAFSA because they are not American citizens.

There are scholarships that cater particularly to foreign students and most of the merit scholarships are available across the board, according to an email from Annelise Villiers to Student Media, program specialist for the Office of Scholarships.

“We offer an SGA international student scholarship for current students, as well as other awards that are not specifically for U.S. citizens or permanent residents,” said Villiers. “Our merit competitions are also open for incoming international students, including the Undergraduate Admissions – Presidential, Ambassador and Transfer awards.”

Coming up in 2018, international students will also have access to a new scholarship tailored specifically for them, according to Parra.

“We are creating an ISSS International Student Scholarship Fund. That’s going to be for the incoming class of 2018,” said Parra. More information will be made available closer to next fall.

Help also comes in the form of navigating their immigration. As soon as a student from another country applies and states that they are international, mechanisms are activated within ISSS to prepare the necessary documentation for the students and their respective embassies, including preparing them to get a student visa.

“We have an immigration database that we access, and we are actually immigration officers here in our office,” said Parra. “The offices of international students have become very sophisticated…”

The evolution of international student offices at universities into more complex bodies began, according to Parra, after the events of September 11, 2001.

“The people who were piloting the planes that crashed into the twin towers, they were students… and nobody was checking what they were doing. They were going in and out of the country, getting training abroad… and from that moment on, now we have to know where our students are at all times,” said Parra.

For more information on scholarships for international students and general financial help, foreign students can go online to the ISSS page and access their financial resources database at

Featured photo by Nicole Malanga/PantherNOW

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