On Monday, University President John J. DeGioia issued a statement affirming Georgetown’s commitment to its international students: “Ours is a global community — one made stronger by our religious and international diversity.”
DeGioia’s stance is a testament to the fact that international students form the essential fabric of the university, with more than 2,500 individuals from over 130 countries attending the school.
Under current stipulations on F-1 student visas, international students are often prohibited from holding off-campus jobs, and can only hold up to three paid internships during their four years provided they relate to a student’s field of study. These restrictions prove particularly challenging given the fact that international students are offered a “very limited number of need-based scholarships” through the university, according to Georgetown’s website, and are barred from federal funding, including Pell Grants and the federal work-study program.
International students are also legally vulnerable in ways their classmates are not. In Washington, D.C., an arrest during a demonstration or march can be wiped from a citizen’s record for $50; for an international student, this arrest can be grounds for deportation.
Although Georgetown’s international students have access to the Office of Global Services and a personalized New Student Orientation, a hallmark resource available to international students was slashed last year when OGS discontinued its international pre-orientation program.
Instead of a three-day introduction to immigration compliance, cultural adjustment and work restrictions, international students receive this information condensed into a one-day segment before starting their first year at Georgetown.
The program was discontinued, not because of financial restraints, but because of the perception that the program potentially confined students to an international friend group, according to OGS Director Rachel Rubin. However, the program also provided invaluable information about legal protections, health insurance and cultural adaptation, which proved essential in helping them navigate student life in the United States. In light of the increasingly fraught legal status of international students under the Trump administration, the program ought to be reinstated.
Moreover, this informational program should not be constrained to a one-time session before the start of one’s time at Georgetown — these sessions should be a fixture that international students can access throughout the academic year, as their priorities and obligations change during their college experience. Having information sessions that track international students’ progress throughout their time at Georgetown can ensure they are aware of changing legal requirements and receive updates most pertinent to their time at Georgetown.
Given the political climate for international students, Georgetown should continue to highlight the importance of its global character and support its international student base. By expanding its hallmark orientation program, the university can help this community feel welcomed in a country increasingly hostile to foreigners, provide students with crucial information that assures their financial and legal security and allow them to meet mentors who will help them along the way.