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UST’s International Office Provides Outstanding Support to International Students

The presence of international students at the University of St. Thomas-Houston is an excellent asset for the campus community. However, it requires expert assistance from a specialized UST team. Director for International Student & Scholar Services Dora Zhang says her team supports international students with their plans and needs, and these students boost the university experience for everyone.

International Students Bring the World to UST

Zhang said, “Some of our local students may not be able to study or travel abroad, but our international students bring the world to UST. The international student community is part of the diversity that UST takes pride in. And a diverse learning environment helps students learn how to collaborate with people from different cultural backgrounds and appreciate alternative perspectives.”

Team Helps With F-1 and J-1 Visas

According to Zhang, the total non-U.S. resident population at St. Thomas is 6.3%. An estimated 4% of UST students are international students who are on F-1 or J-1 visas. These students can need three kinds of assistance:

  1. Compliance assurance concerning their visas and any related federal regulations
  2. Informed advice on their immigration status requirements and benefits
  3. And support for their academic and personal success

“Students and scholars find that their academic and personal lives are intertwined with their immigration status,” Zhang said. “And our staff helps them navigate the complicated immigration-related processes and unfamiliar campus environment so that they can be successful,” Zhang said.

Support Extends to Addressing the Unexpected

Sometimes, her office supports students beyond immigration status matters.

“For example, the home country of one of our students was severely impacted by a hurricane,” Zhang related. “The storm destroyed her family home and made them lose their jobs, so they were no longer able to support her financially. She was only one semester away from completing her master’s degree. Given that international students are not eligible for

 federal or state financial aid, I contacted our Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. They provided some resources for food and household items. I also reached out to the Institute of International Education (IIE) on her behalf to ask whether they could open their emergency student fund for her. I was able to help her to obtain money to cover her final semester of tuition, and she completed her graduate degree.”

Getting Innovative with Services During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when staff had to work from their homes, Zhang’s office got creative to stay accessible to students. Unable to access their office phones, the staff set up an internet phone, enabling students to easily call or text team members.

Zhang said, “They appreciated being able to call us directly during a time that was causing so many challenges and so much tragedy in our lives.”

For more information about International Student and Scholar Services, go here.