BYU helps ease path for international students



    Almost 2000 international students call BYU home. The number of international students enrolled at BYU this Fall semester includes regular students, English Language Center students and visiting scholars. These students have various reasons for coming, but they all have one motive in common: the gospel.

    “BYU is just a great school where everyone lives, or tries to live, according to LDS standards and teachings of the gospel,” said Margarita Molero, 23, a senior from Spain majoring in Spanish translation.

    Many international students feel the BYU experience includes going to school and doing homework, but it’s also through extra-curricular activities that their BYU experience becomes more valuable.

    “Yes, I have been involved in many activities on campus, but I think that my all-time favorite activity I have been involved in is being part of the Living Legends,” said Vanesa Michalek, 25, a senior from Argentina majoring in Spanish translation.

    The international students at BYU are never alone. They may have roommates, teachers, classmates and even colleagues at their jobs who make them feel welcome at BYU and in the United States. But, above all, there is an organization on campus that constantly takes care of them, or at least, that always makes sure international students don’t lose their status.

    “Our primary job here at the international office is to make sure that each international student at BYU maintains his or her status,” said Theodore Okawa, assistant international students advisor. “And it is essential that they maintain their status. Otherwise they are considered illegal in the U.S.”

    According to Okawa, to “maintain their status,” international students must take at least 12 credit hours per semester, if they work it must be an on-campus job and they can only work for a maximum of 20 hours a week. They also have to keep their passports and VISAs current.

    Okawa, who has been working in his position for five years, said he enjoys working with international students. The best satisfaction he said he has gotten so far is the “sense of dealing with people from different countries and with different lives.”

    Though Okawa is satisfied with his job, he also pointed out the some of the pitfalls.

    “Although I generally enjoy working with international students, there’s still one thing that frustrates me, and that’s when students don’t follow what the international office tells them to do in order to maintain their status, or when they get in trouble and you may get phone calls that they are in jail,” Okawa said.

    But fortunately, “there aren’t many,” Okawa said.

    If maintaining their status is not difficult, getting accepted at BYU appears to be a bit harder.

    George Vaieland, assistant director of admissions, said international students who apply to BYU have to go through the same procedure as the American students. They must qualify academically and they must have a bishop’s recommendation.

    International students, though, don’t have to take an ACT test, but a Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), which is an English and math written examination to be taken in their countries if it is offered. In case the SAT is not offered, they have to show that their high school grades which qualify them to be accepted by an university in their country. If so, then they may be considered qualified to apply to BYU.

    Moreover, according to Vaieland, international students are required to pass the TOEFL test which reflects their English proficiency. They have to show a minimum score of 500 out of 600. In case they transfer to BYU with an associate’s degree, they are not required to take the TOEFL test since their English proficiency is already proven.

    They must also have a regular F1 student VISA released by the American consulate which resides in their home country.

    They have to show a valid bank statement, to verify they have enough money to support themselves throughout their schooling. This is required because international students are not allowed to work off-campus, so the only income they may have is from an on-campus job.

    The number of international students is constantly increasing at BYU. According to statistics released by the international office, BYU has had an increase of about 50 students per year. At the moment, there aren’t any predictions about the number of new international students who will be accepted at BYU, but, according to Katja Herrendoerfer, a student secretary who works at the international office, “10 percent is BYU’s long term goal, but still, there are no official plans when to implement that.”

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