The International Students Association (INSA) at William Jewell College is an organization that assists students who came to the United States for school in overcoming challenges that come with living in a different country.
INSA does not act as a normal club – rather it provides services that students from all over the globe require. Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe, junior chemistry and communication major and president of the association spoke with The Hilltop Monitor about some of these services.
“Things like information about visas, information about how to get a driver’s licence, information about social security numbers, help with taxes, all of those kinds of things that I don’t think typically domestic students think about because [they] don’t have to deal with them because [they] grow up with them,” said Arthurs-Schoppe.
The group serves all international students at Jewell, including those from New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Bolivia and Egypt.
Arthurs-Schoppe and Julia Yamate Germiniano de Almeida, first-year civil engineering major, lead the club. They send out emails to international students when due dates for important paperwork are approaching and represent students through the student Diversity Education Work Group which meets in Student Life every other week.
“There are some pretty specific deadlines, for example OPT (optional practical training) is something we can get to extend our stay after we graduate, and you need to apply for that early in spring semester, so around that time we meet a lot,” Arthurs- Schoppe said. “We meet a lot right before winter break because every time we leave the country we need to get our visas signed. We meet to make sure that people know that and people get that information because there’s not really a mechanism to tell people that.”
There is also a mentorship program set in place for international students who are preparing to come to Jewell.
“We talk to all the new international students and help them prepare, like what do they need to bring, what kind of climate is it here, what’s a normal outfit and things like that,” Arthurs-Schoppe said.
The turnover for international student advisors has been remarkably high for the past several years. Arthurs-Schoppe remarked on how this has made the club all the more necessary.
“I think we’ve been through four or five [advisors] since I’ve been here, and that’s like three years, so that’s absurd. So that means a lot of the time they’re learning, too, and so it makes it really hard for students to know accurate information,” Arthurs-Schoppe commented.
A major goal of the association for this year is to become more sustainable for the years to come. It is important to the group that it maintains its structure as leaders graduate. They also want to make sure they are able to provide international students with the information that they need.
“Our goal for this year is to set up a system of continuity so that people who come in are able to learn regardless of what is happening officially,” Arthurs-Schoppe commented.
The idea of coming to the U.S. for schooling is one that is very enticing to many people born in other countries. Arthurs-Schoppe explained why that is.
“Coming to the States for university is something a lot of people overseas dream of doing because you have amazing opportunities in this country, you have these cool programs like the liberal arts that just don’t exist overseas, and you have this system of financial aid that a lot of countries don’t have,” said Arthurs-Schoppe.
It is appealing to come to the U.S. for school – yet fewer and fewer of these international students are coming to Jewell. There are only three new international students on campus this year and less than 20 in total.
Arthurs-Schoppe thinks that Jewell should recruit more international students because of how beneficial it is to both the students and the college.
“It’s a great opportunity for Jewell to expand not only its enrollment numbers but its diversity, its perspectives and its outreach,” Arthurs-Schoppe said. “I think by neglecting to recruit international students in a very intense and intentional manner is just missing a huge opportunity.”
Photo courtesy of INSA.