With each new school year comes hundreds of international students with questions and concerns about their new IU home. The IU Office of International Services helps students with academics, career and with simply adapting to their new environment.
The Indiana Daily Student sat down with Rendy Schrader, IU's director of student and scholar advising to talk about the upcoming year and the services and programs available for students. Schrader graduated from IU with degrees in political science and French and has been working at IU for 16 years now.
Q. What kind of help and services can the Office of International Services provide to international students?
A. We like to think of us as their first stop, especially when they're new, and they don't know where to go to in a university of this size.
They'll learn eventually but we serve as a good interface. Our primary mission is advising on immigration regulations, but we get students that may be having academic struggles and don't know what the resources are so we can help point them in the right direction. Or they may be having health issues and they don't know how to navigate the U.S. health system.
I've counseled on anything from relationships to health, to academic matters to career advice. But we know where the line is. Our role is to get them pointed in the right direction and with the right resource.
We also do a lot of programming for them in terms of not only helping with cross cultural adjustment but celebrating their culture and trying to do some programming that helps introduce them to life in the U.S.
Q. What is one of the biggest challenges for people coming to the United States for the first time?
A. I think the toughest thing is just being away from home for the first time. Some of them have never been outside their own country or never been out on their own. I think a close second is really the different approach in the classroom. They're coming from many different systems and very few of them allow the level of independence and participation that we expect here.
Q. What is one of the hardest parts about your job at OIS?
A. Our job is keeping them legal, and the government is making it harder and harder for us to provide remedies. In the past, if a student dropped out of status, lets say they went under the required credit hours and for undergrads that would be 12 hours. And maybe they're dropping a course, and they intend to pick another one up, but their record shows they were below 12 credit hours. That leads to a termination of their record.
In the past, we had a remedy where we could help them file for reinstatement and a couple different paths they can follow. And the government has just put out a memorandum that basically says, 'no, you could be what we call accruing unlawful presence, which means you have to leave the country, and you may be subject to a bar for a number of years in terms of returning to the United States.'
So the government has become much less forgiving and it has diminished the number of resources we have available to us, so we are in a panic right now in terms of how do we communicate that to an 18 year old that's trying their best to navigate hundreds of different things and new environments.
Please, please please don't take any action that could impact your immigration status without checking with us first.
Q. Has the government making it harder for you impacted people wanting to come study here?
A. I think its got to have an impact. we're seeing a decrease. Through the efforts of our recruiters, I think we are not experiencing as significant a decrease as some other institutions, but we just feel like the environment is less welcoming in the U.S. in general. So we are working extra hard to make sure that students who come here feel really welcome and really well adjusted and very supported.
Q. In your time here at IU, what are some of your favorite memories?
A. There are a lot. I really love it when the students fill out their exit form, and they say nice things about us. They may not take the time during the course of their studies, but when they look back on it they're like 'wow, it was great here.' Or we had a scholar write us recently and said I was Fulbright student, a scholar at an ivy-league institution, and I have never felt more cared for than here. And I was like 'yes!'
Q. What advice would you give to someone who just arrived here at Indiana University?
I think they need to be open for all opportunities. They need to do the academic work but perhaps not be as hard on themselves. I think they need to know there is so much help available on this campus that we may not notice they're struggling, but if they come and tell us they're struggling, there are so many ways to fix it. They cannot be shy about asking for help.
Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for conciseness.