International students need a home too

Opinion Editorial_2

By Laura Shodall

Take a moment to remember the application process for Oklahoma Christian was like. For some it may have been a few months ago, and for we seniors (especially me), it seems like an entire lifetime ago.

But one fact remains: a few clicks on a keyboard, a few documents submitted and I was done with the entire application.

Unfortunately, if you’re an international student, this is not your reality. That difficult reality just became much more problematic because the department that helps and advocates for international students recently received devastating cuts.

Hard-working employees have been “let go.” A well-oiled machine of a collaborative office is now a slow, clinking car that cannot seem to keep going. It’s easy to look at this cut and not think much about it — the photography major was cut, and comedy troupe Unbound was done away with too. But unless you truly understand how much help our international community needs to even apply to the university, you cannot begin to fathom what this cut means.

The employees in the international department do not just recruit; they act as advocates, helpers and even a second family. In order to apply, students need to submit bank statements and financial proof, meet immigration requirements, prove they are academically prepared to even attend the school and fill out an I-20 to allow them to apply for a visa.

The international program helps 300-400 students every year jump through these hoops, until now.

There are so few employees now that all of this work has become a monumental stress. The person responsible for the Language and Culture Institute — a 10-year-old program that helps sort international students into classes based on their needs or levels of English-speaking ability — is gone. Now all international students are thrown into one class as opposed to three, regardless of preparedness. There is no one left to help the international students with transportation, community building or events.

Cuts have been steadily increasing over the last three years, which didn’t allow for new hires. Funds became increasingly low for activities for international students. Extra fees are tacked on in order for the school to visit and recruit in different countries.

A once thriving and joyful department is now sluggish and downtrodden, mourning the loss of former employees who weren’t just coworkers, but friends, and stressing about the enormous amount of work which has been redistributed.

But the ones who suffer the most are our international students. Once they had a haven on campus that could help them with whatever they needed to adjust to American life, but now random departments are in charge of their needs.

Oklahoma Christian claims to be a “global learning community,” but how can the university claim this when they send students out on glorious six-week mission trips but cannot even support the students from these countries who came here for an education? The university is now trying to force campus events to reassure everyone (mostly themselves) that the international department is “still here,” even if they are making devastating cuts and still demanding the same numbers.

It’s difficult enough to leave your family and move to an entirely different country; it’s even more difficult when your support system has been ripped out from under you.

 

Laura Shodall is a senior at Oklahoma Christian University. 

The opinions of guest columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Talon or Oklahoma Christian University. Guest opinions are presented to foster public debate on important topics and comments should be respectful and signed.

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