International students overcome hardship, seek education

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A seven step application process is just the beginning for the average international student. 

Dixie State University sees about 15 international undergraduates each year, and 70 percent of them continue pursuing higher education. Allison McMullin, DSU immigration coordinator, said one critical motivation for this is because international students will be competing with American students in the workforce, so they need to make certain they can contribute something unique to their future workplaces. 

“These days, unfortunately, you…need more than a bachelor’s degree,” McMullin said. “You really need to stand out.”

The process for these students starts with qualifying for a visa, being accepted to an American institution, adjusting to a new culture and language and receiving education. To reach their goals is not an easy process for international students, but they are determined.

Wing Yin Jane Lo, a senior psychology major from Hong Kong and international student leader, has been in the United States for almost four years, including a long adjustment period to the culture. As the only child of two LDS parents, who strongly value religion, attending Brigham Young University was always an expectation for Lo, although she decided on DSU because of the price and location and will continue on to the University of Utah.

For another student leader, Nicole Aguirre Silva, a sophomore biology major from Lima, Peru, the decision to follow her two sisters’ footsteps and attend DSU was an easy one. Although Silva, like many other international students, said money has been the biggest obstacle in pursuing her education, she plans to obtain a medical degree, as she believes helping people is the most important thing in her life.

Sheena Lee Luy, a freshman biology major from the Philippines, would like to obtain a doctorate in psychiatry or dentistry. Luy said her biggest struggle as an international student has been adjusting to a foreign culture. The food, the way of life and overall behavior in Utah was an unusual experience for her, but her host family helps Luy feel more at home by being accepting and helping her navigate American culture.

For Lo, education means overall success. Lo believes getting her education in the U.S. will open doors for more opportunity in the workforce. Lo said incoming international students should be prepared for cultural differences and misunderstandings because they are everywhere.

“So just stay open minded…be nice, and don’t get too offended,” Lo said.

Silva’s father, who was educated through the Peruvian army, has always valued education. Silva said if her father could learn forever, he would. Her father always wanted the best for her and her sisters and always urged them to study hard and dream big. Education is power for Silva, and she believes it is the key for women to combat the oppression they’ve faced in places like Peru. Silva would like to tell future international students they shouldn’t be afraid to try new things and meet new people.

“[International students] normally stay in their own comfort zone and never get to know people,” Silva said. “If you want to be successful in school it’s not just about getting good grades, you know, it’s about being engaged with the school and with the people around you.”

Luy agreed that being engaged is important for international students. Luy also said she feels privileged to be studying because it’s one of the most important things in her life. 

“I see education as a weapon,” Luy said. “It’s your shield…it’s your knowledge, it’s in your brain, it’s your diploma, and no one can take that away from you.”

Luy’s most important piece of advice for international students is to never be afraid to take chances and say yes to any opportunity to engage with the community and be involved with the events on campus.

These three students, along with other ambitious international students, have gone through a long process to get to where they are today. Students like these will continue to prioritize their studies for years to come while assisting future international students to feel at home in a new world by serving as International Student Services office managers and assisting international students through their process of being successful at DSU. 

“We want to make them feel like this is their home,” Silva said. “We understand them and we have been through that and we know they are going to get through it.”