Shanique Campbell from Jamaica studying at Howard University is one of our summer scholarship finalists! She shares why sometimes international students can feel like “second class students”.
I Am More…
To those who thought they were doing me a favor:
I am the girl you ask to say “Yeah Mon” a million times just to hear my Jamaican accent.
The only one in Political Science 101 who defends Fidel Castro’s actions in 1958 because I understand how it feels to live in “the shadow of the sun.”
The girl you keep a close eye on because my opinions are what? Anti-patriotic?
I’m the islander whose tuition you collect so timely but restrict my movements and prevent me from working.
I’m the student who works twice as hard as my domestic peers but is driven from the Financial Aid Office in tears.
The same one you showcase to say you have met your quotas and your campus is diverse.
I’m the girl you dangle to entice other unsuspecting, potential students like me.
I’m the student who cannot complain, after all, it’s a privilege to be an international student in the United States.
But I wasn’t always just another nameless, dreamless, second class F1 student.
Growing up I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer. Instead of playing house after school, I would pretend to be in court diligently presenting the “Defence’s 16” to a jury of coconut trees in my backyard. Of course back then, the “Defence’s 16” was just a bag of banana chips that mother gave me as a snack; though she knew I would never open it. I took great care to explain to her during deposition that one cannot tamper with evidence. Perhaps my knowledge came from watching too much Law and Order but my passion was innate.
As I matured, so did my passion for law. Not only do I want to attend law school but I hope to one day build my own family law firm. In an effort to accomplish my goals, I must also complete my undergraduate degree in Political Science with a Pre-Law Concentration. Although graduating from college debt-free is not a “must,” it would be a welcomed “plus” in my current life and career plans. Most importantly, I want my journey to achieve my life goals to be a motivation for my younger brothers, and a source of pride for my mother. I came to America filled with hope to achieve these goals, passion to learn and excel and an expectation to be treated like my acceptance letter suggested: one of the best, a highly-motivated and brilliant student, and an equal to my American peers.
If only I knew then, what I know now.
International students face many challenges trying to adapt and survive in the United States. Several studies show that the most common of these challenges are mastering communication in English, adapting to the food and culture and adjusting to the American classroom. But very few realize that the biggest challenge we face may be one that we have very little control over. International students are engulfed in a constant struggle for financial assistance and recognition on college campuses all over America. It is us versus them, “them” being domestic students. Because the government, admissions teams, financial aid officers and donors nurse a sense to provide for and protect their own, international students are treated like second class students to our peers with green cards and U.S citizenships.
While not all international students are discriminated against or neglected, foreign students in the US are inherently disadvantaged by the terms of our study permits or visas. Although many institutions spend a lot of money to recruit international students, they usually funnel little resources into programs to help us integrate and to offset the high costs of our tuition and fees. For instance, there are numerous merit-based scholarships or grants for domestic students, however, foreign students with the same (or dare I say even better) grades have fewer options for assistance. Furthermore, international students’ study permits and student visas restrict us from seeking employment to help ease our financial burdens. Therefore, many international students depend on the insufficient financial assistance available to us as opposed to our domestic peers. A key contributing reason to this disparity is the added requirement that recipients of many scholarships/ grants be US citizens or permanent residents.
Ironically, while international students are directly responsible for our academic progress, it is no fault of ours that we cannot show proof of a green card or American citizenship. However, foreign students are made to feel less than our domestic peers for this very reason. Though we are held to the same standards as students, we do not have access to the same benefits.
It’s been over a year since I have felt like a second class student myself. But it only took me a couple of months to realize that I will never be treated like “them.” I first realized this when I was good enough to be recommended by my dean for one of my university’s most coveted full rides, but I was suddenly turned down when I disclosed my citizenship. “It’s the politics,” they claimed.
This scholarship will help me to overcome the politics and stay on a straight path towards graduating, attending law school and building my own law firm. Although it may not cover the entire journey, this award is an investment in my long-term goals that I will continue to build on until I realize my dreams. After all, “every mickle mek a muckle” – therefore my small accomplishments and favors will add up one day. Additionally, receiving this scholarship would be a welcomed boost for my confidence, which has been trampled in the “battle between us and them.” It would remind me that my achievements and hard-work are recognized and not overshadowed by my F1 visa. It would be the good news (for a change) that I share with my mother and younger brothers the next time I call home; news that will make them proud. It is what will encourage me when I question why I decided to study in America. And with a renewed hope in my dream to practice law, I could focus on making my dreams, my reality.