International Student Services & Enrollment
SEU welcomes Christian students from more than 33 countries and foreign territories worldwide. In fact, we believe so strongly in the value of expanding Christian higher education to all corners of the world that we have a department specifically dedicated to serving international students.
“We’re here to guide our international students every step of the way,” said Betania Torres, director of International Student Services & Enrollment (ISSE). “We help them feel comfortable with the admission and enrollment process, and once they’re here we help them get adjusted to campus life.” Torres notes that ISSE has two admission counselors who are dedicated to international students and can assist with all legal requirements for entering the U.S. to pursue their degrees.
Getting the students enrolled is just the start. SEU provides a fully comprehensive package to make the transition simple so that students can acclimate to both a new country and to college life.
ISSE offers a specialized and very detailed orientation just for international students. These students need more than dorm accommodations and books to get started in college. They need visas, homeland security paperwork, and the like, so they move in earlier than domestically-based students to get all of these processes squared away.
Volunteers pick them up from the airport and help them move in, take them out to eat and go school supply shopping. This helps ensure that the students don’t feel overwhelmed and gives them time to adjust before the general student orientation begins.
ISSE hosts numerous workshops and events each semester, designed specifically to help these students feel welcome, to take the stress out of the legal side of their education, and to aid in the process of integrating into their new surroundings.
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT). These sessions show international students how to intern off-campus and be paid. As long as the internship is related to their field and they are earning college credit, they usually qualify.
- Social security. In addition to workshops that teach the students about social security, ISSE also helps them get their cards once they qualify. Once a student has a job (on campus) or a CPT position, they qualify for a social security number. ISSE explains what to bring along to the social security office and provides transportation to get there.
- Optional Practical Training (OPT). Once international students graduate they can qualify for OPT, which allows them to get a job anywhere in the U.S. Since the OPT application is a lengthy process, ISSE helps interested students begin their application during their senior year. ISSE also provides workshops about this so that once graduation comes, they will be able to start working right away.
- Taxes. Tax professionals come to campus help students file the proper forms; one for when they are working and a different one for when they are not.
- Driver’s licenses. Students learn what they need to apply for a driver’s license and they can even set up a time to receive transportation to the DMV.
- Immigration. To ensure compliance with the law, we bring in a professional immigration lawyer to present ways to stay in the U.S. legally during and after college. The presentation covers everything from applying for a green card to applying for a work visa, and even the process to follow if the student is planning to marry a U.S. citizen, and much more.
The ISSE office invites students to come hang out any time in their study space and a common area and offers a variety of social events to give them a chance to build friendships and community.
- Visa Signature party. “Just because something is required doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be fun,” Torres explains. “Since the students have to sign in to make their visas official, we make it a fun event to get the task done and give them a chance to interact with each other.”
- “Culture Shock” retreat. Each fall ISSE hosts a one-day weekend event specifically designed to help students with their transition to American culture. ISSE explains the services they offer through presentations and activities. Returning students share their experiences with new students, which gives them all a way to connect and be encouraged.
- Family dinners. Once a month ISSE highlights and celebrates a different continent by taking a group of international students to a restaurant that has the cuisine of that area. They dine together but then they also do something fun while they’re out.
- Monthly newsletter. This specialized newsletter serves to highlight and celebrate a different continent each month, featuring our very own international students’ stories. It also provides important information and upcoming ISSE event details to keep students in the know.
- International coffee breaks. During this new event, international students get a chance to connect with others, to be proud of their home and maintain a connection to it. They take turns setting up a “coffee stand” in the ISSE office with the types of snacks and drinks they would eat during a coffee break at home, and other students stop by for refreshments and to learn about the home country.
- International Education Week. To celebrate students who come here and students from here to study abroad, SEU is hosting a “world trade day” featuring local attire and items from various countries. ISSE will also collaborate with the Study Abroad department to host cultural events for the SEU student body.
Starting the Journey
With all of the processes involved in coming to school in America, what motivates students to come here to get their college degrees?
“The answer is pretty simple for many of them,” Torres explains. “There really aren’t schools like SEU in many of their countries, where they can get a true Christian education and grow in their faith.” She cites the story of a student from Japan who came to SEU because she had become a Christian, and desired to grow that relationship with Christ while also getting an education. Still other students come over as athletes, after learning about SEU at college fairs, or through word of mouth among church ministries. They are attracted to the worship opportunities, Bible studies, chances to lead and participate in worship, pursue their academic and career goals … and of course, the Florida sunshine.
SEU does have an English requirement for international students; if the SAT/ACT English score isn’t in the right range, a certain TOEFL score is required.
SEU’s academic advisors help students ensure that they are completing their degrees in the timeframe that is required for their situation, but ISSE will help if they need to extend their visas after getting a job or if they are entering a graduate program.
Home Away from Home
ISSE helps these students by helping them work with financial aid, counseling, medical paperwork, etc. as they need it. Since the students usually don’t have their families here, ISSE connects them with resources and helps with anything they can .
“We strive to be a ‘safe place’ for all of our international students,” explains Torres. “We’re blessed to be able to be a resource and support system for them while they are away from their families. Even something as simple has having coffee together and praying with each other builds so much strength and community. Our shared love of the Lord extends across all cultures.”