International Students Adapt to American Life at SNC


Ryland West

Joao Mendes looks up at the flags hanging in Cambell-Friedman Hall.

Zach Krahnke, Contributor

Sierra Nevada College is the temporary home of international students from 25 different countries, including Italy, Canada, England, Colombia, Brazil, Sweden, Croatia, and China. The flags of the students’ nations are proudly hung in Campbell-Friedman Hall. But these students face many challenges that American-born students never have to worry about.

Getting a job in order to earn income is a major challenge for SNC’s international students. Under the F-1 visa, the document that allows them to enter and stay in the United States while enrolled in an academic educational program, students have limited employment options

“It’s hard to find jobs because as an international student I am only allowed to work on campus,” said senior Juan Luque, who is from Colombia. “I got hired at the tutoring center, and later as an RA. I got the jobs to reduce my cost and pay for school, but I don’t get many hours at the tutoring center so it has been quite difficult.” Campus jobs allow students to work a maximum of 20 hours per week.

Options for campus jobs include working in the Patterson dining hall kitchen, Prim Library, or the gear room. Students can also apply for work at the tutoring center, as an RA in the dormitory, or doing janitorial duties. International students who accept “illegal” employment by working off-campus without authorization can be forced to leave the country immediately, even if it’s the middle of the semester. They can apply for reinstatement, but it’s not guaranteed.

Some international students have difficulties keeping their visa paperwork in order. Every student is issued an I-20 form by SNC, which validates the F-1 visa. The I-20 Form is a United States Department of Homeland Security document that provides supporting information on a student’s visa status. Essentially, it provides proof that the student is studying fulltime at SNC. Each time an international student enters the United States, he or she must have an I-20 form with them.

“My I-20 form got out of order from crossing back over the border for break,” said freshman Kevin Bishop, who is from Canada. Bishop was frustrated because he had already gone through the complicated visa process and then had to do it all again. “It took a while to get it all back in shape,” he said. “But thanks to Chris Anderson, my paperwork got put back in order.”

Professor Chris Anderson, SNC’s international program coordinator, says, “We do everything was can to support our international students. They bring an exciting and diverse element to our campus, and we would love to see this demographic of our student population grow even more.”

SNC holds regular international student meetings to keep international students updated with their documents and simply to socialize. One of the biggest challenges for international students is making friends and adapting to cultural differences.

“While adapting to a new culture can be difficult, the opportunity to study in the U.S. is certainly a rewarding and exciting adventure,” Anderson says. “Luckily, our student body is very welcoming to international students and appreciates them as much as our international students appreciate being here.”