BY GIOVANNA ROMAZINI
Assistant News Editor
“Having an American degree of any kind can put you ahead of a lot of people.”
The number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States has grown by 7 percent, according to the 2013 Open Doors Report on Inter- national Educational Exchange.
In the 2012-2013 academic year, 819,644 international students were enrolled in U.S. higher education, an increase of 55,000 students from the previous academic year, according to the Institute of International Education.
International students who come to the U.S. contribute more than $24 billion to the economy, according to the Open Doors report.
Judith Ulmer, County College of Morris international student adviser, said there are 45 international students enrolled this semester.
“Our F-1 students have remained relatively constant,” Ulmer said. “It is small in comparison to other community colleges, but it is a group of students who have made very significant contributions to our college community.”
Most international students hold a J-1 or F-1 visa. A J-1 visa is a non-immigration visa issued to exchange visitors participating in programs that promote cultural exchange, while the F visas are a type of non-immigrant student visa that allows foreigners to pursue education in the U.S.
F-1 students are required to maintain a full course of study, according to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services. They must apply at the schools and receive an I-20 form in order to apply for an F-1 visa.
F-1 students must show that they are able to support themselves during their stay in the U.S., as their opportunities for legal employment are limited.
When applying to CCM, students must take an English proficiency test and schedule an appointment with Ulmer.
“My job is to make sure students are in full understanding with the enrollment process and the college in general,” Ulmer said. “Their F-1 visa obligations are also important. Students must take at least 12 credits a semester and always be up to date with their immigration paper work.”
Beatriz Uhler is a former CCM student from Brazil. “I graduated from college in Brazil and decided to come to America for a year to improve my English,” Uhler said. Uhler carried a J-1 visa and was living with an American family in Madison when she applied to CCM. “I decided to take some ESL classes at CCM because I heard it was a great school and affordable at the same time,” Uhler said. “I took the English proficiency test and got a low score since I wasn’t so familiar with pronunciation and grammar. I started with English as a second language–beginners and English pronunciation and conversation I, and then I was able to move to the advanced classes,” Uhler said. “CCM has great professors, and my grammar and conversation skills were definitely improved fast.” Diana Falconi has been in the U.S. for six years. She is originally from Colombia and decided to come to the U.S. to be an au pair. She applied at the InterExchange agency and within months received a call from a family in Short Hills, N.J. InterExchange is a nonprofit organization devoted to promote cross cultural awareness through work and volunteer exchange programs. While an au pair in the U.S., Falconi took care of three children and was required to take a six credit course at a community college or university.
“I took two ESL classes at CCM at the time,” Falconi said. “It was my first time at an American school and I remember having a great experience.”
Falconi renewed her contract as an au pair for a second year and decided to apply for an F-1 student visa.
“My host family moved to South Orange so I got my student visa at Union County College,” Falconi said. “Two years later I majored in liberal arts and got into Montclair State University. I’m a fashion major now.”
Studying in the U.S. can be attractive to people around the world. Many consider it to be an excellent platform for exploring the culture and its opportunities.
“Having an American degree of any kind can put you ahead of a lot of people,” Uhler said. “In my country, most jobs requirements are basic English. I believe that is why the number of international students in the U.S. will not stop increasing.”
Ulmer said she admires the courage of the international students at CCM and advises them to join clubs and organizations so they can be more involved in campus life.
“It might be difficult initially for students to adapt,” Ulmer said. “An international student may have more challenges and adjustments to face by enrolling at CCM.”
Ulmer said the differences tend to disappear once students are more comfortable with their English language skills and have integrated into the college community.
“I’ve helped so many of these students get into big universities,” Ulmer said. “I’m always looking forward to meet new applicants from around the world.”