International students overcome trials and tribulations

Danya Gil

Maintaining the determination to finish a degree can be daunting to some students, but often they have the support of their family, friends and previous life mentors to help them prevail. Unfortunately, international students lack the luxury of access to that support network.

According to Weber State University’s reports and publications from the 2017-18 school year, WSU hosts 246 students who come from outside the U.S. These students represent 61 foreign countries.

International students face challenges on the road to their degree that some domestic students do not have to think or worry about.

This fall semester brought new policies to WSU international students. They are required to pay close to $500 for medical insurance through a company contracted by WSU. This was an added expense that was not listed in students’ estimation breakdown when they were enrolling.

Additionally, international students must remain enrolled full time. For the most part, domestic students have the option of deciding how many classes they enroll in each semester. If a domestic students are enrolled full time and decide a class is not working for them, they can often drop the course without repercussions.

International students must also have sufficient funds to sustain themselves during their time here. If they want to work, they may only work off-campus jobs that correlate with what they’re studying. On-campus jobs offer a maximum of 20 hours per week and are scarce.

Mary Machira, director of the International Student and Scholar Center, spoke about some pressures international students face.

“Some students come from countries where they may have the finances and suddenly the currency is devalued and less valuable than the dollar,” Machira said. “That can really affect their ability to pay.”

Additionally, international students are immersing themselves in a completely new culture with a language that is not their own. They are adapting to these changes while their support systems are countries away from them.

“Coming to the U.S. to get an education is not cheap,” Machira said. “And so when families are sending their children to come over and get a degree, there’s certainly, I would assume, some sort of expectation.”

Despite the added bumps in the road, WSU senior Rodrigue Kissou never felt like giving up on his business economics degree since the reason he came to the U.S. was to get a degree.

Kissou is from Burkina Faso. His father helped him come to the U.S. to pursue his education. He says he felt some pressure to be successful and get his degree because of the investment his father made in his education.

At the time of the interview, Kissou was anticipating an interview with Goldman Sachs. He has applied elsewhere, including positions outside of Utah, but he wants to start his post-graduate career at Goldman Sachs.

Kissou has a vision to return to Burkina Faso with his degree, but after he takes a year off to work and later attends grad school.

Had Kissou not chosen to attend WSU or pursue higher education in the U.S., he would still have aimed to get his degree in Burkina Faso, but that could have been more much more difficult.

“You have more job opportunities in the U.S. than where I am from. You’re studying, but there is no clear path for what you want to be,” Kissou said.

Kissou will be graduating this fall semester. His father will come into town to see his son walk, a reunion five years in the making.

Regardless of their circumstances, international students like Kissou are walking away from WSU ready to impact the world.