International Students at HFC

Sometimes it’s hard for Michiganders to see the potential of the state. What makes people come here for school, specifically Henry Ford College, versus schools in states such as California and Florida with nice weather, or New York with its popular demand? Recently, the nation’s attention has been directed to worldwide issues, with President Trump’s travel bans and stance on immigration and refugees. This makes one wonder, how many of our peers and school members are not from the area?

Henry Ford College is home to many international students, that is, a person who came from outside of the United States to attend school here. Moving is a big deal for any person, but imagine moving to a brand new country. Many of those who come from overseas have family already living in Metro Detroit that encourage them to come to school at HFC because it’s near to them. However, others who don’t know anyone here in Michigan are attracted to the tuition rates and English language programs.

When international students enroll at HFC, they take an English placement exam, like many incoming freshman take for math and other subjects. There are seven classes they could be placed into. The first class is for those who do not speak any English. This is similar to an intro course in any language one might take, like French or Spanish. Once they finish this class, they move up to the second level, which teaches them more advanced English. Each semester, if they pass, they move up. Like learning any other language, it can take years for an international student to reach the seventh class, which is English 131, a regular course that any incoming American college student might take. At this point, they are able to take other classes and transition into “normal” college student life.

Of course, normal is hardly the word to use at this point. Students who came here by themselves, with no family, have a hard time adapting and some suffer from what may be called “culture shock.” In addition to having to learn the language, including American idioms that may be peculiar to the Midwest, international students must learn to navigate unfamiliar roads; locate places to shop for food and essentials, including housing, hygiene products and clothing; and try to study while living so far from home.

International students are offered living spaces at the Union of University of Michigan-Dearborn, the college right next door to HFC. The university is gracious enough to open up dorms at the apartment-like building across the street from the two schools to international students who may need to find housing in Dearborn. The dorms are nicely furnished and include appliances like a refrigerator and stove, making it easier on the newcomers. Orientation at HFC includes many examples of shopping and grocery stores in the area, and brochures provide information on affordable health insurance and where to go for medical treatment.

The International Student Services staff coordinate the Cultural Friendship Program, which pairs international students with American students in friendly exchange. Applications are available on the International Student Services website. The program is part of several services for the hundreds of international students who attend HFC. Weekly or biweekly, the pair can meet up individually to grab coffee or lunch and just talk to each other. This creates a special bond for the two, and can help give the international student a more secure feeling of having a friend in a new place. The directors of the program also hold events, such as a bowling or movie night, where everyone participating in the event can come together and get to know one another.

Students in the International Program have restrictions and limitations that are necessary to follow in order to maintain F-1 status. For example, students are not allowed to withdraw from a class unless given permission by their counselor, and they must remain a full-time student and keep their grades above a 2.0 GPA, along with many more requirements related to their visa status. While they are allowed to apply to work on campus, students are not permitted to work off campus, which can pose a challenge for many to afford to study in America. Counselors and faculty in the International Students Office work with each individual to help keep her or him on track.

It is difficult and courageous to move to a new country and make a big change in your life. The Admissions Office plans to update the international students website to bring in more students and work on better educating those about the F-1 status so they can have success at HFC.

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