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9 Struggles of Being an International Student You Might Not Know About

Most people in KU are considered normal students. The words “Visa”, “Green Card”, “Permanent Residence”, and “J-1, H-1, H-4b…etc” mean nothing to them. But for the 2200 international students here at KU, those terms are the ones that determines their lives here. I came to the U.S in 2001 at the age of 7. That was 14 years ago and I have just recently gotten my Green Card or Permanent Resident status. No, that doesn’t mean I was an illegal immigrant all this time. I was under a H-4b Visa status which states that I am temporarily legally allowed to live in the U.S under my father’s Visa status provided by whichever company he works for. There are a lot of struggles of being under only a visa status that a lot of people don’t know about. 

1. Because my dad’s Visa status is provided by his company so that he is legally allowed to work, the same does not extend to the rest of my family.

It was heart breaking to see my mother (who, at the age of 36, taught herself English and put herself through Nursing School) get rejected for a Work Visa. My mother went through hell and back to get her Nursing Degree just to be told that she cannot work.

2. With that being said, that means I can’t work as well.

I have never worked a day in my life. And although some would consider that lucky that I don’t have to juggle work and school at the same time, all I feel is guilt for being so reliant on my parents for everything.  

3. The fact that I can’t work means I don’t have a Social Security number 

Hackers come at me! But seriously though, the weird looks I get when I fill out important forms and I have to leave my SS number box blank. *I’m not illegally here, I swear!*

4. I can’t apply for a credit card or student loans 

I mean, I can’t work so there’s no need for a credit card but I also want to build my credit score for taking out loans in the future.

5. There is no job security. The pressure on my dad is unreal. 

Because the company determines our visa status, our legal stay in America is entirely reliant on whether my dad has a job or not. There was a period when my dad was laid off and we went dark for a good month before he got hired by another company. Those were some rough times that reminded us just how dangerous it was to not be a Permanent Resident.

6. I can’t apply for Financial Aid of any kind

Because I can’t apply for Financial Aid, I’m limited to in-state colleges. I’m glad I’m a Jayhawk and I don’t regret it in the least but I just wished I could’ve had more options in choosing colleges. 

7. I can’t apply for medical school

I have wanted to be a doctor since I was 6-years-old and to be told that I couldn’t apply for medical school because I was under a visa status was heart-wrenching. The acceptance rate for international students at medical schools is 0-1 percent.

8. I can’t go anywhere outside the country

Well, I technically can but I can’t come back into the U.S. Most people don’t think of this but I actually can’t go on any cruises as well. Also, I have not been back to China ever since I came here, so we’ve had to fly relatives in so that we can see them. I saw one of my cousins for the first time last year and she was 10 years old. 

9. The holidays get pretty lonely. 

Especially Chinese New Year when families are supposed to gather together and celebrate. We just call our relatives back home to see how they’re doing and watch the Chinese New Year broadcast on TV. 

With all that being said, achieving Permanent Resident status has been such a relief since I’m applying for medical school this summer. I can’t even begin to imagine the relief my parents feel now that after 14 years, they finally get to have their piece of the American Dream. 

**This story was written from the point of view of one International Student who was writing from her personal experience. Her Campus KU does not believe this is the same experience for all international students**




Analog by birth, digital by design. I rap caucasionally, sorta. Prefer my puns intended and will show ankle for 5 minutes for fast internet.
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