The plight of an international student
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2012
Updated: Friday, June 22, 2012 00:06
My tale is a sad one, which speaks of hope and ultimately disappointment. As an international student I came to Baruch full of dreams. All I had to do was focus on my studies and be active in as many leadership and social activities as possible and my college experience would be perfect.
These dreams kept me going despite all the hardships my family had faced financially. Unfortunately, I would find out that this was not even enough. The blue, glittery Baruch financial aid page on Facebook once rendered a jolt of hope in my heart. But after many disappointments, I realized that I was never going to be eligible for any sort of financial aid or student loan because I’m an international student.
Before attending Baruch, I was assured by my school advisor that I just needed to manage the tuition for my first year as international students are usually prioritized when it came to on-campus jobs. He was also confident that I would be eligible for a scholarship. I contacted a counselor from Baruch and he too reassured me that there were plenty of opportunities for on-campus jobs and that I shouldn’t worry.
Painstakingly, my father had arranged for the money for my first year and I thought it was all that I needed; everything seemed promising. As a result when I started at Baruch I strived for good grades. And I succeeded, at least to some extent. But a GPA just above 3.8 was not good enough to get a scholarship as an international student.
This is not to say that I didn’t try other avenues, but the promises about on-campus employment soon started to seem hollow as well. From my very first week at Baruch I searched for a job on campus. I tried every door, but nothing was available, they all asked me to check back later.
I decided to be patient and not panic, my dream couldn’t just end here. But at this time my father had given me all his savings, and with the high living-costs of New York and tuition, I knew I would soon have my back against the wall.
To make matters worse, in the middle of my second semester my father lost his job. This time I really panicked. I searched around campus hoping for an opening somewhere. I went to the international students services center every week to see if they had any suggestions. I went to the financial aid office frequently to see if there was a change in their policy regarding international students. And I wrote to the leaders of TEAM Baruch, which I was a member of, to see if any of them had known someone in a similar situation. There were so many wonderful student leaders but no one replied.
Amidst all of this, there were tiny sparks of hopes here and there, one of which was Sallie Mae. I nearly cried tears of joy when I found out they offer loans to international students (even though at outrageous interest rates). I was hopeful nevertheless because it at least meant that I could continue my education. However, my hopes were soon crushed when they informed that I must have a co-signer who’s at least a permanent resident in the United States if not a citizen, and I have no one.
Now I’ve given up. But I can’t help but wonder. Baruch once felt like home and I really wanted to give back one day. I loved and cherished this place. But during my time of need, money was a factor strong enough to stop me from doing what I loved. And all because I’m an international student? I didn’t love Baruch any less! Couldn’t it have done something for me? Anything? Maybe one day I could have even had the power to help other international students like myself.
The sad truth is I still wish I could resume my studies there. But I also know that it is probably never going to be possible unless I win the lottery.
I am still grateful however, for the wonderful memories Baruch gave me. Baruch really changed some major aspects of the way I perceive this world in a very short time.
The reason I decided to write this today is because I miss Baruch more than ever! I miss its classes, its people, and its vending machines. I even miss the Egyptian man who used to sell vender food right outside the Newman Vertical Campus. I wonder if he still does.
To this day I still visit Baruch’s financial aid page, hoping something has changed. It didn’t. But that didn’t stop me from hoping; if not for myself, for other international students. I just wish money never had to be the reason we can’t reach our dreams. And I hope people who are able to afford an American education realize how lucky they are, and never take it for granted.