About 270 ORU students are international students, representing 68 different countries.
Each student has a unique journey with varying obstacles, but they all have one thing in common — they came to the U.S. by choice.
RED TAPE TO GET HERE
Imagine the anxiety of sitting outside the doors of the U.S. Embassy after months of waiting for an appointment. That’s how junior Sam Bako felt as he sat outside the U.S. Embassy in Ghana with his bank statements and identification in hand. When Bako was allowed in the embassy to obtain his visa, the next layer of red tape emerged — the interview.
“They want to know why you want to get an education in the U.S., rather than staying in your own county,” Bako said. “I have seen other students not get a visa because they were too nervous, or because the interviewer didn’t like their answers.”
For senior art major Evelina Lundqvist from Sweden, months of preparation were not an option when she heard the voice of God and decided to attend ORU two months International students are required to obtain documents and vaccinations before the embassy will schedule an appointment. The wait can be up to three months.
“My dad called the embassy and they had an opening from a cancellation,” Lundqvist said. “I was able to go in a week later. It was kind of miraculous.”
After international students receive a Visa, they must book their flights, acquire a passport and choose what items to bring that will fit in one bag. Once in country, they are faced with another web of red tape, said Bako.
“You are asked many tricky questions,” Bako said. “If they don’t like your answers, they won’t let you in.” And the red tape doesn’t end there. Many international students are faced with culture shock.
For Lundqzist, the transition into American culture went smoothly with the welcoming atmosphere of ORU. Culture shock did not hit her until six months into the school year.
“Even though the American culture is very welcoming, it’s very hard to get to know people deeply,” Lundqvist said. “I told my friends I wanted to know them more than just how classes are and how the weather is. This culture is different socially.”
When faced with difficult times, such as medical emergencies, an international student cannot simply call their family, Lundqvist said. If international students go home for the summer, they must once again condense their belongings for travel and put the rest into storage.
Dr. William Wilson, ORU president, has announced a new vision for the university: globalization.
At this semester’s first chapel, Wilson said, “Welcome to ORU. You are home. You are not a foreigner.”
With this new vision, students hope the red tape will be less sticky for those called to the university.
“The focus has been getting ORU students out there into the rest of the world,” Lundqvist said. “But there is a lot of the world already inside of ORU.”
RED TAPE TO STAY
The hurdles students face do not end once they get to school. For those wanting to stay stateside, a whole new set of problems arise.
Deborah Skinstad, a HPE professor and tennis coach, is originally from South Africa, but has chosen to make the U.S. her home. She is now in the midst of a 10-year battle for citizenship. Skinstad said she was invited to come to ORU on a full tennis scholarship, but as she played her way through her education, she struggled finding work, having no family nearby or having only two suitcases of belongings.
Joshua Wagner is a Canadian senior but has lived in the U.S. since 2001. Wagner is on a student visa.
He has the option after graduation to apply to work in a program called Optional Practical Training, as does every international student. Wagner married an American in college, a special circumstance that will allow him to become a U.S. citizen before having to return to Canada.
He also has two brothers. One has been in the U.S. since age 7. Though the U.S. is the home he remembers most, he still may not be able to stay.
Wagner said his dad sometimes goes back to school to keep them in the U.S., the place they call home.
“We have lived here for 12 years and have applied and tried and are still denied Green Cards,” Wagner said. “They contribute to America’s economy. People who would be a good addition to American society should have the opportunity to live here.”
The global-political climate can affect how and when an international student can get to the U.S. to go to school. Currently, there are some students still waiting on Embassy appointment. American immigration policy has been deadlocked between the Senate and Congress.
The Senate wants to grade immigrants based off of two paths and two separate score cards; one for white collar internationals and one or blue collar internationals. Points would be awarded on criteria met such as work experience, a job in high-demand, family, age, knowledge of English, education and country of origin. Applicants scoring higher would have a greater priority than those who scored lower. The debate is over the ability and costs to implement such a policy.
They are also looking into providing citizenship incentives to international students in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields (STEM). Skinstad said it’s unfortunate that the intellectual internationals are not brought into the dialog.
“The United States has inadvertently put legal immigrants into the mix with illegals,” Skinstad said. “If nothing is done to help, the educated international minority people will leave this country in droves, which will result in a brain drain, dramatically impacting the United States economy.”
There are many different routes into the USA, and the student visa accounts for 4 percent of immigrants.
If a student can obtain their F1 Student Visa, they have overcome their first obstacle. The next is finding income. After graduation, it is a non-stop battle through a wall of red tape in the quest for citizenship.