The Plight of an International Student: Those who come to the United States to study face an array of obstacles.

AuthorNaar, Scott

It's strange now, living without the fear of being kicked out of the country. This was my situation for so long that it became a sort of routine, biannual anxiety attack.

Every few months for the past decade, I would be wrought with nervousness. I knew that the life I had built here could be uprooted, my aspirations of being a filmmaker might have to be put on hold, and the work I had done establishing myself in the United States could be lost.

As a Jamaican native, I came to the United States at age seventeen to study music in Chicago for my undergraduate degree. From when I stepped out of the airport at O'Hare in 2008 up until I got my green card in 2019, I lived in the United States under the F-1 Student Visa, a legal status that was contingent on me continuing schooling in the United States.

I consider myself a good student and an upstanding citizen. I did my part, obeyed the law, even graduated magna cum laude--twice. But there's one element of schooling that made the threat of leaving the United States and returning to Jamaica real: university tuition, which in my case topped $30,000 a year.

For years, faced with this enormous cost, I heard the same thing over and over again: Get a loan. College is expensive for everyone, U.S. citizens included. Many students do get loans to pay for tuition, then spend decades paying them off.

OK, fine, I thought. I just need to go to Wells Fargo or Sallie Mae and get a loan through those channels. But, as it turns out, that's easier said than done.

In order to get a loan from a private institution, most international students must have their student loan cosigned by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident with very good credit. Like me, most international students who come over here don't know many people willing to put their credit on the line for someone who's neither family nor a close friend.

In fact, according to, only .2 percent of foreign students in the United States reported that they pay tuition this way.

So a loan wasn't an option for me. I had to somehow find a way to pay for school out of pocket, working to help pay off my tuition. I wanted to be self-sufficient, in charge of my own destiny I didn't want for my parents to have to pay for my schooling; they were having a hard enough time just getting by.

International students are generally not allowed to work off-campus while studying at most universities or colleges. Furthermore, I was required to enroll in a minimum of three...

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