While gearing up for my first year at Georgetown University, I found myself stressed out about issues involving my F-1 visa status. On top of worrying about being homesick, making friends, moving to a new continent and leaving my parents behind, there was an entire web of legal information I had to navigate even before I arrived at Georgetown. This is the reality that many international students at Georgetown face and continue to face throughout their time here.
My nerves hadn’t been calmed even after watching hours of international student orientation videos about immigration rights, health insurance policies and safety measures against credit card scams. As such, I was relieved when I was assigned an international student advisor through the Office of Global Services (OGS) because I was glad that I would have someone to talk to directly about my concerns rather than sifting through pages of information and links. However, I soon found out that there are only two main international student advisors for nearly 500 undergraduate international students: one is focused on the MSB and one on the other three undergraduate schools. In order for us to feel more integrated and comfortable in the Georgetown community, it is important that the OGS adopts a more personalized and accessible approach in working with international students.
The OGS, located in Car Barn, is our one-stop shop for any concerns about our immigration status. It offers International Student and Scholar Services, providing resources for maintaining F-1 visa status, filing taxes and applying for a Social Security number (SSN), as well as Global Program Support Services, concerned with traveling or studying abroad.
The OGS website has important information international students would need for applying to jobs and internships, traveling or studying abroad, opening bank accounts and health insurance plans, or earning income and paying taxes. F-1 and J-1 students have to take Canvas courses and self-paced video modules, workshops and newsletters to familiarize themselves before arrival. The office also provides resources for the wider Georgetown administration to support its international students.
Sergio Rodríguez Cifuentes (SFS ’25) said he often uses OGS resources for completing important documentation specific to international students.
“OGS is my go-to place for when I need permission regarding work-related affairs. Last time I went to them, for example, was while applying for my SSN, so they helped me out with my documentation,” Rodríguez Cifuentes said in an interview with The Hoya.
While the resources are detailed and holistic, the availability of international student advisors is often much more valuable to students than surfing the website. While settling down in a new country, international students need support well beyond just legal immigration requirements. The human element — the homesickness, the culture shock, the difficulties of public transport, the safety procedures — can be further integrated into OGS’s culture of supporting international students. A big step toward achieving this is through a more personal connection between the student and advisor.
It would be beneficial for international students to have more frequent workshops and in-person guidance, especially for common processes like applying for SSNs, navigating internship and work culture, options for work post-college and more. These can also be further promoted in more places than just the OGS website.
“International students often have many similar questions, so the OGS can update the FAQs or have more frequent sessions explaining common processes,” Rodríguez Cifuentes added.
Furthermore the OGS shouldn’t be the only office at Georgetown that understands and deals with common issues for international students. It is important for the entire Georgetown administration and all departments to be informed and approach our concerns with sensitivity and optimism.
The OGS remains committed to Georgetown’s tradition to care for each person according to their needs and to provide support to students of all cultural and religious backgrounds. The office provides helpful immigration and procedural information for international students and is generally accessible in terms of resources and location. But I would feel less intimidated by F-1 status policies if I had a personal connection with the office administration and felt equally supported by all Georgetown institutions. The OGS should be further improved by incorporating more of the human element when it comes to dealing with international student concerns in real time.
Priyasha Chakravarti is a sophomore in the College. International Voices appears in print and online every third Friday.