International students flock to SF State
September 20, 2007 9:01 PM
Rene Deichgraeber, 24, was sitting in his classroom in Aarhus, Denmark earlier this year when his teacher spoke of an opportunity to study in San Francisco. Deichgraeber, who had visited the city twice before and loved it, convinced his girlfriend to apply with him and flew over 6,000 miles to study at SF State this fall.
“Everything that influences Danish policy seems to come from America,” he said. "And this city is perfect. There are a lot of things that fit for me. It seems so safe, and has a nice climate.”
Deichgraeber is one of a growing number of foreign students who flock to SF State every year from over 100 countries ranging from Japan to Argentina.
According to My Yarabinec, Coordinator of SF State's Study Abroad and International Exchange Programs, SF State ranks no. 1 among California State University (CSU) campuses in the number of foreign students it receives.
This semester, there are approximately 2,000 International students and about 180 foreign exchange students at SF State, almost twice the amount at other CSU campuses.
International students spend up to four years studying at the university to earn a degree, in comparison to foreign exchange students, who typically spend one to two semesters taking the place of American students who went abroad.
Foreign students may sometimes have to plan up to a year in advance because of the demand and popularity of SF State, said Yarabinec. The process can take several steps. First the students compete with other students at their university to participate in the program.
For Deichgraeber, that meant submitting an essay along with his application. Then, if the students apply under the CSU program, they also have to "compete at another level, for San Francisco instead of Chico or Dominguez Hills,” said Yarabinec. “They can’t send everybody to SF State.”
Nanna Dahl Pedersen, 26, a psychology student from Denmark who applied under the CSU program, had to wait several months to see if she and her boyfriend were accepted to SF State.
“My boyfriend is studying anthropology while I am studying psychology,” she said. “We needed to find a university that had both our subjects.”
However, some students think applying is the easy part.
“The hard part was getting a visa, an international driver’s license, and making travel appointments," said Deichgraeber.
The Student and Exchange Visitor visas, also known as the F-1 and J-1 visas, require documents showing that the visitor intends to stay in the country only temporarily and “has evidence of compelling social and economic ties abroad.” Getting a visa can take up to six weeks and cost 100 dollars.
Once they arrive at SF State, there are many opportunities for foreign students to immerse in American culture, such as the International Education Exchange Council, an organization that boasts over 400 foreign and American students.
The IEEC brings together Foreign and American students in an effort to “promote cooperation and educational exchange,” said Noah Kuchins, an International Exchange Advisor. They participate in activities and social events such as going bowling, visiting Yosemite, doing the Bridge Walk, and many intramural sports. These programs can turn out lifelong friendships and sometimes even more.
“We’ve had a lot couples come out of the program,” said Kuchins.
Although the SF State's programs aim to minimize culture shock, some foreign students do experience the drawbacks of the city.
“The living costs here are much more expensive,” said Marcel Krapf, 24, a broadcasting student from Germany. “The food and electronics here are cheaper, but I pay four times the amount for rent as I did over there.”
However, said Krapf, the good outweighs the bad. “I like the city. There are so many new things,” he said.
Kyra Scheenen, 20, a media studies student from Amsterdam, said she likes how she is treated at SF State. “All the professors here want to listen to us, like we’re special,” she said.
“I love the students here,” said Alberto Aescoli, 26, a philosophy student from England. He said American students love to talk to him when they learn he is an exchange student. “It’s like they lay out the red carpet for us,” he said.
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