University of Utah: An Academic Melting Pot

By Angel Cortes

The University of Utah draws a lot of international students and is a kind of the melting pot in the state of Utah. There are approximately 2,600 to 3,000 international students pursuing a degree at the U. According to Steven Burnett, International Student Advisor at the University of Utah, international students are welcome and are an essential part of the campus’s community.The University of Utah offers several programs to international students to help them to adjust academically such as, orientation and advising.

Cecilia Fernandez is an international student from Lima, Peru. She has been living in the United States for 15 years. Currently she is attending the University of Utah and working on her master’s degree in Health Promotions. Fernandez finds that the benefits of studying in the United States include greater opportunities for future employment and expansion of networking with individuals with the same career. She believes that to be bilingual helps people to have better chances of success in her employment field. She also finds that meeting people with diverse backgrounds has engaged her to have better experiences studying at the U.

Fernandez took advantage of the University’s resources to help her prepare for graduate studies, including deciding what field she wanted to study. She says the Marriott Library at the U has also been a great tool for research. One of the difficulties she faced coming to the educational system in the US. was the language barrier, “learning how to write in another language was a challenge, “she said. Another challenge that she found was the university’s expenses. She says that there are some scholarship for international students, but not enough.

Despite all the advantages and programs that the U offers to international students, they still face significant challenges since the first day that they arrive to the US. Burnett says, “It is [also] very challenging to go to the US. Embassy to get a student visa.” According to Burnett, many international students face cultural shocks when coming to the United States to pursue an education. Besides the language barrier and getting a student visa, international students need to follow guidelines to keep studying at the U.

Adapting to the US. educational system was not easy for Fernandez in the beginning. She mentions that studying and learning English was the first step. Studying to take and to pass the TEOFL was her priority and she devoted much time preparing for it. In contrast to taking classes in Peru, where the size of the classrooms was relatively small, Fernandez says that in the US, “The classroom were bigger in size and it was difficult to ask questions to the Professors.” She adds, “It was hard to feel part of a class because it was very big.” Fernandez also says that the classroom’s rules where stricter in Peru. She says, “In Peru you could not step out of the classroom.” In the United States she found more flexibility in classroom’s rules.

The University of Utah has a program for international students called International Student Ambassadors. Ambassador’s helps new international students to adjust to the life on campus and assist in orientations. Also giving support to these students with their first semester. According to Burnett ambassadors helps new international students to integrate here at the U. This promotes an environment of union between all the students that participates in this program. Burnett says, “Internationals students come to the U and later become ambassadors.” The U, in an effort to help international students integrate to the new and different environment, has created programs that gathers together these students and embrace them in one community.

For all the challenges that international students face in the US, the U provides programs and classes to help them out so that these students can integrate to the US. educational system. Fernandez enjoys working and studying at the U. In her experience working as a research assistant on campus Fernandez says, “They help me out to accommodate my class schedule with my work schedule.” Her goals are to finish a PhD and encourage Latino women to pursue an education. As an educational melting pot in the state of Utah, the U prepares international students to work and be successful like Cecilia Fernandez.

Resources for U of U International Students:

International Students and Scholar Services: The International Students and Scholar Services helps students and their families adjust to living in a new and different environment.

International Students Ambassadors: This program engage globally –minded international students who are familiar with the Campus and Salt Lake City with incoming international students.

International Students Resources: There are several resources that the U offers to international students to help them become acquainted with the community, meet local families, improve their English skills, and find a welcoming social environment.