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International students find home at CSU-Pueblo

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For many college students, home is not far away. Students choose schools close enough to home to allow spending weekends with family or, at the very least, being with loved ones for the holidays.

However, for the international students at CSU-Pueblo, home is a lot farther away.

According to Annie Williams, associate director of the Center for International Programs at CSU-Pueblo, 135 international students are currently enrolled at the university.

They come from many countries, continents and backgrounds. Nepal, Germany and France are just a few of the countries that CSU-Pueblo students call home. Often, these students will be away from their homes and families for at least a year at a time.

To obtain permission to study in the United States, international students must go through a very long and complicated process.

First, the student must contact the closest U.S. Overseas Educational Advising Office, which will provide information about financial planning, admissions procedures and visa requirements. The OEAO also connects students with specific institutions that offer programs of interest.

Next, the international student must obtain a visa through the U.S. Embassy in his or her home country. The visa process takes weeks, sometimes even months to complete. The type of visa necessary varies from student to student.

Finally, the student must complete the application process required for his or her school of choice.

A 2006 press release from Open Doors, which is the official program for international students, said there are 564,766 international students currently enrolled in colleges across the United States. Of those, 5,183 international students are attending schools in the state of Colorado.

A 2006 Department of Commerce report lists higher education as the fifth largest service sector export in the nation, with revenue of approximately $13.5 billion. International students are responsible for all of their own expenses, which mainly consist of tuition and cost of living.

Until they graduate, international students are only permitted to be employed by their campuses, and jobs are hard to come by for them, Williams said. For the most part, international students rely on funds provided by their families back home.

To reduce some of the living expenses, many international students opt to come to CSU-Pueblo in groups, share the cost of flights and live together to save on rent.

Because many of the campus services are shut down and they can’t afford to go home to see their families, Williams said the holidays are particularly difficult for international students.

In order to meet the needs of international students over the holidays, Williams said that CSU-Pueblo has set up a network of host families, who are willing to open up their homes to the students during the holiday season.

This program not only gives international students a place to stay, it also gives them a glimpse into American culture, by exposing them to holiday traditions.

The Center for International Programs at CSU-Pueblo also offers an English Language Institute program to help international students with the process of adjusting to life in the United States.

This program not only helps international students learn English, but also adjust to the different culture, classroom setting and workforce environment.  

The program is immensely helpful to international students, providing them with opportunities to meet students from other countries and preparing them for future employment opportunities; many international students choose to stay in the United States after graduation, said Williams.