FIU is limiting my exchange student experience

International flags at Graham Center | Via FIU Flickr, Eduardo Medilla

Paola Manzano | Contributing Writer

My first semester at FIU as an exchange student was overwhelming.

Although there’s plenty of opportunities at FIU, realizing that some of the resources here are only available to non-exchange students was discouraging. 

Exchange students come to FIU to experience a different academic approach and to receive academic opportunities not accessible where they come from; for example, certifications and organizations.

I’m an English major from Puerto Rico excited to experience another language; however, being an exchange student has its setbacks. 

I intended to take full advantage of the certifications and programs during my stay here – like the exile studies program or the translation and interpretation certificate program, both of which are very beneficial to a Puerto Rican English major. 

However, I found that as an exchange student these were inaccessible to me. Since I’m not getting my degree from FIU, they are unable to provide me with certifications.

The fact that most certifications and programs are available only to regular students reflects limited access to FIU. It is an obstacle for exchange students that would like to benefit from the academic advantages of an American university, not just the social aspects of one.

Another obstacle encountered throughout my semester in Miami was that FIU makes it difficult to get financial relief since aid is unobtainable to exchange students on home payment. This is a program where students, instead of paying FIU’s tuition, pay the tuition from their home university.

The tuition from one’s home school, however, does not include FIU’s housing charges, meal plans, class materials and overall expenses of an isolated exchange student in a new city. This is why this payment plan should not determine whether one qualifies for student aid or not. 

The public education system lacks consideration for students who come from different states or countries in regard to expenses; the cost of living in Miami far exceeds that of Puerto Rico’s. 

This is damaging, with my case being a prime example. I do not receive student aid from Puerto Rico’s financial aid program, which would normally not be a problem. However, my expenses have increased due to a change in location. 

Consequently, the rule for students on home payment leaves me with no student aid, which forces me to fill part of my busy academic schedule with work shifts that disable me from enjoying FIU to the fullest, academically and socially.

The issue of finances doesn’t exist in a bubble – it impacts other areas of learning, and some other issues exist for exchange students beyond money too. 

FIU does not provide good transportation services, another expense that needs to be taken into account for students, since being an exchange student means relying on public transportation 

Although Freebees are offered by FIU to all students, it’s rare to catch sight of one. This makes traveling difficult and unpredictable especially if you rely on pricey Ubers that can only be used in groups of fours, which also delays important errands.

Further, a personal academic advisor should be given to any student trying to benefit from an educational institution. However, that is something exchange students are deprived of, and something that slows down our integration process. 

A personal academic advisor would know and understand the nature of FIU classes, professors and academic life – in addition, they would also have access to your GPA, record and history. 

That combination of knowledge, of FIU and the exchange student, makes for a higher success rate, something an advisor from back home cannot offer.

A solution to all of these dilemmas would make for a better experience at FIU. 

It’s clear that they aren’t aware of the fact that when part of an exchange program, one is looking to benefit not just socially and culturally, but also academically.

More should be done for FIU exchange students. Spending a year or semester financially chained to loans, expecting new academic opportunities yet not receiving them is unsatisfactory. Which is why we should strive to make the experience of all of FIU’s students worth remembering.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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