Daily Emerald reporter Ally Taylor sits down with Abe Schafermeyer, The Director of International Students and Scholars, to talk about the problems international students face and the programs dedicated to integrating them into the community.
Schafermeyer was born in New Hamshire and received his M. Ed in student affairs from Western Washington University. He came to the Office of International Affairs 2002 and has been working there since.
What work experience did you have before the university?
I was an ESL teacher at a private school in Bogota, Colombia, and after that I moved to Western North Carolina, and I got a job with City Bank in their corporate training office.
There were over 2,925 international students last year at the university. What are the numbers this year?
There are approximately 3,100 international students at the university, and that isn’t including the students studying in the AEI program which is around 500.
What are some of the problems international students are facing?
The challenges international students face are becoming more documented. When I first got into the field, there was very little research on the barriers and challenges of students.
There are both social and academic challenges. On the academic side, understanding the higher education structure and interactions is difficult. On the social side, students without meaningful connections show signs of depression and perform poorly in school.
What are some of the new programs the International Affairs office has to combat these issues?
We have a new social integration program that I am really excited about called explOregon. It is designed to help international students and domestic students meet each other and go on meaningful trips together. They are going go to Portland, the outlet malls, the gorge, Crater Lake. They also go to Food For Lane County and volunteer together. This is the first term we launched that program, and it is proving to be very successful.
There are a number of programs that are helpful for students on our website.
What are some of the misconceptions about international students?
There is a bit of a stereotype that all international students are wealthy, and I can tell you it is simply a stereotype. For every student that is driving a nice car out there, I am seeing a dozen students coming in saying i’m going to have a difficult time paying for my rent next month.
What are some of the options international students have in looking for financial help?
I am very proud of our scholarship program because we are offering about $1.5 Million in international student aid every year through a variety of different sources.
How do you stay involved with international students and events on campus?
I pay very close attention to the international student experience on campus, both formally and informally. I’m a North American guy in my 40s. Without constant contact with these students, I am not gonna know the issues they are facing on a day to day basis.
This is an increasingly global campus, and it doesn’t take to long to see a flyer or a tweet about someone doing something interesting that is internationally focused.