This semester – 20 months after a pandemic started – first-generation international students and low-income international students are still demanding more support from the university as they face visa restrictions, financial support problems, career opportunities, and navigating student life brought about by COVID- 19 only get worse.
For Aheed Hamza ’25, a freshman first-year student from Pakistan, “Cornell could do better.” As someone who found more support and resources than they did with friends and the Cornell Reddit community during their freshman semester University itself, he mentioned that a program aimed at low-income, first-generation students is badly needed.
Hamza’s story isn’t necessarily unique to international FGLI students who, in addition to the four year logistical burden of maintaining a student visa, have limited opportunities to find work, finance their finances, obtain scholarships and career opportunities, as well as social and cultural opportunities navigating a country far from home for the first time.
But her stays in the United States were constantly challenged by unstable policies, such as: 2020 immigration and customs enforcement ruling who forbid staying in the United States if only given online instructions, and the Ministry of Homeland Security proposal which limited the validity of the student visa. Even if both are now zero, the growing concern about the Omicron variantThe impact of travel on travel activity means that international students continue to find themselves in precarious situations and have an increased need for support from their universities.
Cornell’s grant department is already in a highlighted one crisiswho take care of payments that are months late into the semester. Although Cornell is a need-blind institution to domestic students – it largely ignores financial standing in admission decisions – Jonathan Burdick, Vice Provost for Enrollment, told a student assembly meeting in October that international students applying for financial aid are at a disadvantage for admission. A limited amount of funding is available for them, but preference is given to full payers.
For international students receiving financial aid from Cornell, their visa limits the opportunity to supplement their income. Loans are not available, and the dual study program allowed in the funding packages has a limit of USD 1,300 per semester, with the F-1 grant allowing a maximum of 20 hours per week. These opportunities are limited to work on campus.
For Gauri Batra ’21, a Tata Scholar – an annual grant program for 20 students from India – who worked with Cornell Dining in the fall of her freshman year, this combination of guidelines can be detrimental.
“You make $ 12 an hour on campus, but $ 15 an hour off campus [for dining jobs]; So it can be an obstacle – you have to work harder to make the same money, ”she said.
Subscribe to Newsletter
Although there are several research programs that accept international students, many scholarship and research opportunities, such as the Mellon Mays, retain US citizenship as part of their eligibility, reflecting similar barriers to jobs that require a work permit in the US
In addition to working in research labs with professors on campus, Batra has looked for career opportunities by Curriculum internship, a work permit that allows temporary off-campus employment closely related to the student’s study program. But opportunities like these are difficult to find because the information channels are closed to first-generation students.
Hamza found that many first-generation students do not have access to cultural capital similar to that of students whose parents attended college, and navigating a new system in a new country only amplifies that for international students. Without similar soft skills and networks, joining competitive clubs and professional fraternities that provide wider access to opportunity will be even more difficult.
“It’s about the connection a first generation student won’t have [starting out],” he said.
Academic and professional challenges aside, the new changes at college will be disproportionately difficult for those at the interface between FGLI and international without easy access to a home visit. For students like Shehryar Qazi ’24, there can be years between visits with visa challenges and expensive plane tickets.
International flights are explicitly expensive, and the international student grant package that receives grants is not adapted to the significantly increased travel costs of international students.
However, Batra was able to get home over the summer vacation as her Tata Scholarship includes one round trip per year, which makes it easier for her to get home over the summer vacation. She said an overestimation may make it possible to customize a winter vacation trip with the grant.
For those who stay here during breaks, finding affordable housing can be another challenge, as evidenced by the university’s summer COVID crisis. For Batra, her financial aid package to cover the cost of living in India was cut even though she signed a lease for an apartment in Ithaca.
“The landlords of Ithaca are notoriously bad, “said Qazi. “More support is needed to ensure housing security for low-income students.”
There may not be enough resources to help students transition not only to a new university but also to a new country. From time zone adjustments to homesickness – all of which can negatively impact mental and academic well-being – great consolation for international students is cultural organizations that connect them with peers who are going through the same thing.
While programs like Prepare – an orientation program tailored to international students – are helpful for incoming students before the regular orientation, they only allow an additional week for social and cultural acclimatization before the start of the class, in addition to the costs.
Aheed Hamza ’25 noted that the international student experience is reduced to culture shock, and this excludes FGLI students who need to learn from the ground up what college is like.
“You see the inequality in terms of social groups; Some higher-income international students have an easier time assimilating because they have a head start on knowing what life is like in the US, ”Hamza said.
Hamza said it was important for Cornell to differentiate between those students who are struggling and those who have relatively well-adjusted time, which should lead to more personalized programs.
In addition to student organizations such as International student union and First generation student union, Cornell has one Support center for first generation and low income students, as well as Global Learning Office act as a service center for international students. the Einaudi The center is also internationally oriented in research, which recently organized cultural training for assistant staff incoming Afghan scholarship holders.