Home away from home

— Conor Barry Courtney Tanner
(Conor Barry)

(Conor Barry)

This Fall Semester 900 students will leave their homes across the globe and travel to the U to study.

Julie Scott, who works with the International Student and Scholar Services at the U, not only keeps track of those numbers, but also keeps track of the success of international students in the college setting.

“Our mission is to get students through here and graduated and on with their life and to help them succeed,” Scott said. “We want to see them successful academically, and sometimes that means helping them socially.”

The office is there to support international students, make sure they are aware of immigration rules and be a place where students can connect.

Currently, almost half of the international students coming to the U are from China. Students from South Korea account for 15 percent, India sends 9 percent and smaller percentages come from other countries such as Iran, Australia and Japan. The highest amount of international students come in the Fall Semester because grad students are required to come at that time.

Wei Fan, a sophomore in chemistry from China, has been in the United States for close to two years now. Fan used to live with a homestay family, which is a host family that lets international students stay with them during their studies. Fan’s homestay parents were two professors at the U.

She lived with them for four semesters and feels lucky because they were able to help her navigate her way around the U. She said when her mother visited from China, they even let her stay with them too.

Fan said she made friends in class from the beginning who helped her study. She says it is difficult to study subjects in English because it is not her native language. These friends and classmates helped with understanding the concepts and lending notes.

Most of the students who lived with her in her homestay family were Japanese, helping Fan to learn about the Japanese culture. Being a part of the international student body helps students not only learn about the American culture, but cultures all around the world as well.

Fan is now more comfortable at the U. She volunteers at the Bennion Center, teaching math to middle school students, and plans to finish her degree here. But she has two concerns: the dry weather and the excess amounts of pizza in America.

“I like American food, but I like Chinese food better,” Fan said, explaining that her homestay family eats pizza once a week. “It’s great, but eating it every week becomes problematic.”

She feels Americans don’t eat enough of her favorite food: rice.

Jackson Jayaraj, a graduate student from India in the MBA program, has been in the U.S. for more than nine years.

Jayaraj almost enrolled at BYU but was worried the school’s business program was too rigid. It wasn’t a good place for him to “explore and spread [his] wings” and become the kind of leader he wants to be. He found a welcome flexibility at the U instead. To him, the U offers an environment that allows students to develop leadership abilities. However, what trumped everything was the scholarship the U was providing.

Jayaraj said although he has enjoyed his experience at the U thus far and is grateful for the International Student and Scholar Services, the process also has room for improvement.

“Things could be streamlined,” Jayaraj said.

He feels the business school understands international students better than the U as a whole. But ISSS has helped by providing seminars that teach students how to obtain work permits and employment.

“I don’t feel like I don’t belong at the U,” Jayaraj said. He said he doesn’t get a “strange feeling” on campus but is instead comfortable and enjoys his time here.

There are different programs for international students that come to the U. Scott said each has its benefits, and some allow regular students to participate as well.

The Language Culture and Exchange Program is for students who would like to learn a new language or culture. This is especially helpful for students majoring in a language. The program pairs students up with an international student to teach them.

The Friendship Family program links international students with students who live off-campus with a family. This is not for a homestay program, but for international students to have a family to connect with.

I-mentors link up with students at orientation. These mentors support students and serve as a guide when it comes to where to shop, where to go out, where the best printers are on campus and more.

Scott said these clubs prove to be beneficial for both parties. They offer connectivity and friendship, in addition to gaining familiarity with another culture.