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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston: An outsider’s perspective

UMass Boston is home to students of many nationalities
UMass Boston is home to students of many nationalities

Exhausted, muscles aching, you look around this foreign land.

You thought you had “seen the world” as Lana Del Ray so elaborately put it. You believed you’d seen it enough times in the movies to know exactly what this would feel and look like. You however feel nothing like Audrey Hepburn in Charade and as excited as you may be for what awaits you in the land of the free, you just long for something familiar to feel safe deep within yourself.

According to boston.com, there were 1244 international students at UMass Boston at the beginning of Spring Semester of 2013. UMass Boston was named as one of the most diverse campuses in Massachusetts by an online outlet in 2012.

So, how comfortable is the transition for international students after leaving their home countries for UMass Boston?

The first few weeks after you arrive in the city is a struggle in itself. Most international students that I know of are basically homeless, having faced immense difficulty finding accommodation after their prime concern for the past month had been acquiring a visa to enter US as a nonimmigrant. A task which in itself is difficult; even with your hand nervously clutching your acceptance letter at the embassy interview.

Following all of that comes the honeymoon period between you and Boston.

The city has much beauty to offer, especially the Harbor Point Bay. Park Street stop becomes a favorite of many seeking a change from the Dorchester scenery to the city environment.

Bostonians are extremely friendly and welcoming– a blessing in this fast paced world where everything appears so massive and intimidating to a lot of us.

However, what is usually forgotten is that, despite all the efforts of the university, international students still face numerous difficulties. International student employment, for instance, needs much improvement– it is that much harder for international students to be employed gainfully.

There’s a persistent stereotype that all student visa holders come from wealthy, well endowed families– this is not always the case.

Its not uncommon to find international students whom are out of money. Seeing as their parents have given everything to send them here, they cannot ask for more. Being in a very liminal stage, late teens to mid 20s,  you feel the weight of sponsorship from people you care about and would like to care for.

While it is an amazing feat that students at Umass Boston are open to various means of financial aid opportunities as well as student loans and work study options that can help them pull through college, this is not an option for an international student. We aren’t eligible for financial aid.

In addition to most of the students not having any family here to fall back on in case of emergencies, with private loans demanding that a permanent US resident or citizen be the cosigner of the loan, they must now walk with the heavy weight of daily assignments and expectations on their shoulders.

To be employed as an international student, you must apply for a social security number. To get a social security number, you must be employed. The process has international students running from one office to another.

While  living in the United States is a learn-as-you-go process, most students are not initiated into the country with a guidebook telling them an insider’s point of view. You may have the I-20 in your hand but you still have no clue which method is the best for transportation or where the most wholesome foods can be found cheaply.

The best thing that can come out of this entire situation though is that you emerge better and stronger than ever. America is truly one place that teaches you not only just to live, but to survive.