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With the academic, social and financial aspects of attending a university, college can be a stressful time for students. For international students, miles away from home, in an unfamiliar culture, speaking an unfamiliar language, learning unfamiliar customs and still trying to succeed academically, this experience can be even more difficult.
The International Student and Scholar Center at Weber State University is designed to help international students in a variety of ways. Located in Room 143 of the Student Services Building, the center helps students cope with homesickness, academic issues, visa and immigration issues, and everything in between.
“There’s a lot of hard parts to it, you know?” said Morteza Emami, the center’s director. “It’s not just one thing. Being away from home, and being a long way from home, it’s hard.”
Emami said the center aims to provide international students with a sort of safe zone, where they can come and ask any questions or bring up any concerns they have.
The International Student and Scholar Center currently assists about 425 international students, with 45 different countries being represented at WSU. Emami said the majority of international students are from Saudi Arabia, followed by China and Korea.
Having international students is good for WSU and the country as a whole, Emami said. International students add to the economy, and Emami said WSU sees its share of that money. But more than that, international students allow further chances for the exchange of cultures and ideas in the classroom.
“It’s one thing to read in books or watch on the Internet about certain countries, but another to have someone who’s actually lived in that country,” Emami said.
Andre Santos, an international student studying athletic training at WSU, is originally from Portugal. This fall semester will be his fourth at WSU. Santos chose WSU because he had some friends at the university and he had heard good things about WSU’s athletic training program; he loves soccer and hopes to work with a professional soccer organization after he graduates.
“I miss my friends and family, but the people here are so nice, and they’re willing to help you with a lot of things,” Santos said. “It’s definitely different, but it’s a good different.”
Santos said the International Student and Scholar Center has helped him meet an array of people and learn about new cultures, especially because international students get together regularly to cook for one another, help one another and share their home cultures.
Shohei Yamanaka, an international student from Japan studying education, arrived at WSU only a week before the start of fall semester. Along with Keisuke Shimane, also a student from Japan studying education at WSU, Yamanaka attended an international student orientation put on by the International Student and Scholar Center to gearing up for the coming semester.
“It’s difficult,” Yamanaka said. “Campus is much bigger than that over in Japan.”
Yamanaka said he and Shimane hadn’t made many friends at WSU. “Not yet,” he said, smiling, but he said he figured he’d make some friends quickly.