During the 18th century, American colonists understood the contradictions of paying tribute to the British Crown, a colonial metropolis that wouldn’t recognize their rights. They expressed their grievances in the well-known slogan “No Taxation without Representation.” This episode of American history has been on my mind since the U.S. political climate became more challenging for immigrants and international students.
Loyola’s commitment to social justice and diversity has always made me feel welcome despite the xenophobic wave that has taken over this country. Nevertheless, I believe the university can further strengthen its commitments by addressing some of the problems international students face right here on its campus.
For instance, recipients of the Fulbright Program, a scholarship system of merit-based grants for international students, aren’t recognized as members of the student body, and Loyola’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) isn’t aware of how many Fulbright students are attending Loyola. As a result, we aren’t counted for in the International Students & Scholars Report, an annual overview of international student enrollment based on our visa status. This results in major issues, not only for Fulbright scholars, but for other international graduate students at Loyola as well.
Enrollment in the university begins while we’re still in our home countries, and when we have questions and attempt to contact Loyola officials by email or phone, we’re often referred to links on Loyola’s websites, which don’t always address our concerns. We face trouble trying to communicate with university officials before we even arrive from abroad to Chicago; therefore, we find ourselves trying to understand how the American higher education system works and, generally, go without the necessary support that comes from personal interaction.
Once in the United States, international students lack information regarding the services the university offers. Loyola’s international graduate students attend an hour-long orientation that can’t possibly include all we need to know before beginning school having come from abroad. Moreover, university officers don’t think about all the obstacles that come up when someone has just moved to the United States. For example, trying to schedule an appointment at the Wellness Center without having a U.S.-based phone number seems nearly impossible.
International students face particular challenges, such as language difficulties and migration-related barriers, often needing more help than domestic students. Key services such as the Writing Center and the ISSS can make a difference. However, there aren’t enough available time slots at these resource centers. Furthermore, the ISSS is understaffed, currently operating with only two advisors.
International students bring a variety of ideas, perspectives and experiences to Loyola’s classrooms, research centers and the community as a whole. These interactions favor international understanding and contribute to promoting peace through the means of education. For these reasons, Loyola should do a better job at providing better channels of communication for its international students. This includes providing more personalized attention, a longer and more comprehensive orientation program, greater availability at the Writing Center and hiring more ISSS staff members. The initial step should be recognizing Fulbrighters as legitimate members of the student body, and, consequently, part of the larger Loyola community.
As the American colonists realized, recognition is essential. The contributions international students make to Loyola can’t continue if we aren’t recognized as full members of the community.