Latest Publications

A Mistake in your I-94, are you a fugitive Now!!?

I am glad that your interest is hooked on my little story, and I hope it will help you or your friends if a police officer at one of the POEs (Port of Entry) made a mistake with your I-94. A month ago, I went to one of the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicle) offices in Wayne to take the knowledge/written test for a driver’s license. I waited for my number to be called and here we go! A problem came up: the person who checked my documents (6 points of ID) told me that my name on my I-94 does not match my name on the other documents. Guess what, a little letter that the officer in the airport put as my middle initial was the problem! Honestly, I don’t even have a middle name. They told me at the DMV office that they won’t issue my driver’s license until everything matches.

I was shocked and afraid at the same time, I mean nobody told me about it. Even when I was issued my social security card, they did not say anything. Some people said that to avoid any need for a correction request at a later time, it is always the best to double-check your personal information on the I-94 form. However, that was a kind of impossible thing with my 20-hours economy class flight coming from Syria.

I tried to call the airport but I couldn’t get through for some reason. The answering machine didn’t give me any option to speak with customer service that is responsible for correcting I-94 mistakes. So I stopped by the international student office in Stone Hall Room-215 and asked them about my problem. They told me that I have to go to the airport to fix my issue. The problem was that I entered the United States of America through JFK airport, not Newark which is closer. I thought, it is going cause some pain for me and cost me a round trip to the airport. Eventually, someone came like a charm and told me that you can do it from any POE. So I prepared myself on Friday, and took the important documents with me like my passport, I-20, bank account, my social, and other things just in case i needed them. Usually, it takes 25 minutes by car and about 1 hour and half by bus.

I reached their office at 2:30 pm but an unexpected thing happened, they told me that the CBP office hours are from Monday to Friday, 8:00 am to 11:00 am, which was the only thing that I did not check it. Unfortunately, I had to go back and curse my day and my wasted time.

So my advise to you is:  as an international student, make sure that you always check the schedule to avoid the same mistake. Eventually, I was able to fix my I-94 form issue and it only required my passport and 10 minutes waiting in the office. Two hours later, the issue was solved on the website.

The officer said that in case your problem isn’t solved, you can call the number (973) 565-8000 and get it done without going back to the airport.  This was the most important information of all! For more information about CBP website you can visit http://www.cbp.gov/. Moreover, if you want to check your I-94 status and info or obtain a copy of it you can go to https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html.

Understanding Cultural Diversity

Since we are in a new culture and this is a uniqueness of the United States (U.S.) that students from all over the world having distinctive cultures come here to get education. Therefore, it is very essential to become cultural sensitive and respect all cultures regardless of race, class, and gender. It is also important to keep in mind cultural sensitiveness while communicating with students belong to a different culture. It is also substantial important to understand cultural background to interpret the response and meaning of the conversation of a student who belongs to a different culture before creating any judgment or perception about him/her. Same is true when you live with people who have diverse culture. Therefore, we have to be more careful and responsive about cultural diversity. Moreover, our positive attitudes towards acculturation would be very critical to make things easier for us. The efforts about learning new language, celebrating festivals, participating in important events, and understanding the U.S. culture may become substantially useful that will make us feel happy and prevent from isolation.

Utilization of MSU Services

It is obvious that when we come to a new country and culture, we may feel homesickness, which can sometimes lead to depression and anxiety. We can also feel overwhelmed because we have to manage everything including departmental documentation, school requirements, class work, assignments, cleaning, cooking, and travel. Having all these responsibilities at the same time, we can easily feel overloaded and that can negatively affect our productivity and well-being. I faced this issue when I first came to the US. Then I heard that Montclair State’s counseling services could help me to manage these things and I went there, which proved to be extremely useful for me. As international students, it may be helpful to consult with Counseling Service if we feel things like homesickness or cultural shock. They are really good at giving advice.

In addition, on every Thursday at 3pm, there is an event at the Drop-in Center (near the Student Center) called Connecting Across Cultures in which students from different countries/states participate and which is also a really good way to meet new students who are in a same situation. The students discuss similar issues and share their ideas and experiences, which can always be helpful for us.

In addition, when I felt bored or less energetic, I started to go to the recreational center where there were lots of activities and entertainment on a regular basis. I always felt relaxed when I went there. Now I included it in my weekly schedule and I go there twice in a week for exercise that provides me energy, happiness, motivation, and also a chance to meet other students.

Off Campus Residence

It is an ideal situation for international students to live on campus during their studies. Doing so may help us feel a better sense of community and to meet with people of similar ages and interests, which may increase our motivation level for studying well, especially in the beginning of our studies. Living on campus, we can more frequently use school resources such as recreational center (gym), library, computer lab, etc. However, if for any reason any of us would like to live off campus, it is essential to secure an adequate residence at that time when we leave our home countries. Usually, we think that it is an easy task to find a good residence once we arrive in the US, however this may not always be the case. Finding an off campus residence that matches our way of living (appropriate neighborhood, housemates, distance from school, etc.) is something that we must consider and plan well before our arrival in the US, as it is not easy to find an appropriate residence once we arrive. Therefore, we may have to compromise, or pay more in order to get it immediately.

Moreover, it is useful to see house/room pictures, view the surrounding area using Google maps, and ask current international students about housing by connecting with them on Facebook. Also, by thinking about housing early, we have an opportunity to speak with the staff at International Services about our housing options. International Services can help make sure that those international students who want to live off campus get an appropriate residence or can help to guide them in the selection process. Since many international students who do not plan ahead for housing often assume that it will be fine, but when they arrive and see how complex it can be to find an appropriate housing, they may become confused. The residence is one of the most important places to relax and talk with friends, family, and significant others during a busy schedule, especially during the first semester when we also have to deal with other administrative and admission related issues. If we do not secure a good residence, it may become extremely stressful and substantially affect our academic performance. Therefore, this important issue can be resolved through effective and early reciprocal interaction between International Services and international students.

Use of Technology

Appropriate use of technology can become extremely helpful for us as international students. For instance, when I started my studies here at Montclair State University, I lost my way a couple of times while trying to navigate the bus system. After some time, I heard about using a smartphone or a GPS so that I could easily enter any destination where I wanted to go and it would take me exactly to that location. Therefore, for a new student who is just coming to a new country and who does not know locations and directions, a smartphone or GPS would become a useful source to help avoid problems or inconveniences related to navigating the local community.

In the beginning, I was spending too much money to call my parents, friends, and siblings using my cell phone because I did not know about apps like Viber and Skype. When I came to know about these advanced communication sources, I started talking with my family by using Viber and Skype. In addition, when I used to talk through phone, it was not as enjoyable or meaningful as being able to use Skype so that I could see my friends and family, which really provided me with substantial happiness and motivation. Therefore, using these sources of communication to save money also provide me with a stronger sense of closeness to my family and happiness, especially whenever I feel homesick or lonely.

Feeling isolation can affect our academic performance

One of the biggest problems in the beginning of an academic year that we face is feeling isolation and homesickness. The reason for this may be because many things may be new to us such as food, people, academic environment, and place of residence. At this point, we may also be alone in this country without our friends, family, and significant others. Therefore, we may feel anxiety and depressive symptoms or our emotional well-being may be effected. In the beginning, we may not be able to find friends as it takes some time, especially when we are out of our homeland and culture.

In order to overcome this issue, we can participate in the activities conducted by International Services, such as trips, workshops, orientations, or other interesting events. I hope that International Services continues to organize such events regularly every year and to select those activities that are relatively inexpensive for international students to ensure a substantial participation in those events because we more likely face budget constraints, especially in the beginning of our studies. Moreover, international students should definitely contact different organizations working across MSU, such as the international students’ organization, and contact International Services in order to learn how to make contact with these organizations.

In addition, although we feel the burden of our workloads and face difficulty sparing our time for extra-curricular activities, especially during first year, it is extremely essential to keep an eye on such events because those events could become a good opportunity to meet students who have similar interests and needs like you. The bottom line is that we as international students should be pro-active and keep searching for these activities, which could help us manage these issues and facilitate our academic performance and process of acculturation.

Packing Tips

If there is one thing I don’t like about traveling, is to pack. I’m pretty sure most people don’t find this a funny task; however, it’s an essential part of traveling.  A couple of days ago, someone sent me an article with some helpful tips about packing, so I think it would be nice to share them.

  • Do not pack jewelry, cash, computers, electronics, or fragile items in your checked baggage.
  • Pack shoes, boots, sneakers, and other footwear on top of other contents in your luggage.
  • Avoid over packing your bag so that your articles do not spill onto the ground if the bag is opened for inspection and the screener will be able to easily reseal it.
  • Avoid packing food and drink items in checked baggage.
  • Don’t stack piles of books or documents on top of each other; spread them out within your baggage.
  • Do NOT pack or bring prohibited items to the airport.
  • To avoid loss or confusion between your item and that of another passenger, place identification tags with your name, address and phone number on all of your baggage, including your laptop computer.  It is a good idea to place an identification tag inside your baggage as well.
  • Before arriving at the airport, check with your airline or travel agent to determine the airline’s baggage policy, including number of pieces you can bring and size and weight limitations.
  • Place personal items such as toiletries, toothbrushes etc. in clear plastic bags to reduce the chance that a TSA screener will have to handle them.
  • Do not pack wrapped gifts.  They may need to be opened for inspection.

 

large (64)

Studying Abroad

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

Nelson Mandela

 If someone had told me a year ago I was about to live one of the best experiences of my life, I would not believe that at all. However, seven months ago I started a journey that has completely changed my life in so many different ways that it is even hard to explain. Leaving my country to live in a place I had never been before, with people I did not know at all and for so long, is such a challenge. Most people tell me all the time it takes a lot of courage to do such a thing, but I always reply, well, is not life about challenges and adventurous experiences?

I have never been a shy or dependent person, however, when I came to America, it was hard for me to be able to be completely myself.  I still remember how I used to feel lost the first weeks of classes, walking around campus looking for the right building and room, how I barely participated in classes, even when I’ve always been a talkative person, and how I used to be very self-concerned about my accent. It has been seven months since I came to America, and I can totally say that I have grown as a person due to this experience.

By the end of last semester, I had a lot of friends outside the international students, I could easily go to New York City by myself and not getting lost and I found funny how even my English improved a lot to the point that I do not embarrassed about my accent anymore.

 My time in this country has definitively been one of the best experiences of my life but it does not mean it has been easy all the time, however, learning is always about beating obstacles. I can tell I have been improve many skills since I came here, my English is a lot better, for example, but also, I have learn about life. I have learn to be independent and to stand for myself, but also, my willing for learning about other cultures has incredibly grown, as well as my world view, and at the end of this journey, that is all what I’m going to take with me back home.

However, every journey comes to an end, and even when this experience is about to finish, here, it is about to start in the place where I was born. Studying abroad is not only about the experiences you live in the host country, but also about the experiences you share once you are back home.

I have been blessed with so many great experiences but now it is my time to take all what I have learned and share it with my people. I’m an education major student, and one of the most beautiful things about teaching is when you are able to give without getting anything in return. I think that the most important things I am taking with me to Costa Rica are not those in my suit case but those in my heart. I am a passionate person, and one of the things I enjoy the most is to teach, so I cannot wait to be back home and fill little hearts with knowledge and love.

large (10)

Philadelphia Photo Contest!

On April 19 International Services took a group of 47 students, scholars, and staff to Philadelphia.  The trip began in the morning with the Cherry Blossom Festival, and ended in central Philadelphia.  We wanted everyone to have a wonderful time, and to document their experience in Philly, thus the Philly Photo Contest was born!

During the week following the Philadelphia trip, we received lots of submissions from various students.  All the photos were fantastic, and it was extremely hard to chose a winner; however, a winner had to be chosen!

And the winner is…

 

Hamza Jazmati2

Congratulations!

All of the entries were wonderful, so here they are as well!

Change Shu:

Chang_Shu2

Wenhong Guo:

wenhong_guo_1small

 

 

 

wenhong_guo_2small           wenhong_guo_3small 

Parisa Vahedi Pour:

Parisa_1          Parisa_2           Parisa_3           Parisa_4            Parisa_5           Parisa_6           Parisa_7           Parisa_9            Parisa_8

Hakon Furulund:

Hakon_Furulund_1small           Hakon_Furulund_2small           Hakon_Furulund_3small

Changwon Kim:

Changwon_Kim_2small           Changwon_Kim_1small           Changwon_Kim_3small           Changwon_Kim_4small

Thank you to everyone who submitted photos!!  And I hope everyone enjoyed their Philly experience!

Trip to Philly!

When I got the email from International Services saying that they had organized a trip to Philadelphia I got very excited. Five minutes later I was leaving my house to sign up for the trip!

We left nice and early Saturday morning and we had a good time in the bus. We made our first stop at 10 am, beginning our morning heading towards the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival at Morris Arboretum. I was overwhelmed by all that beauty of the nature. It was a great serene place to get away from the rush of the city and relax. It was truly amazing and worth “walking the distance”.

10168051_10202737120140964_6443736684010895999_n

10172801_10202737140741479_4614690066994513348_n

 

10251953_10202737137101388_7475374633298343597_n

 

1625548_10202737130861232_6026910943566672687_n

10174927_10202737123701053_6107617087032971964_n

P.S. Do not judge by the photos. They are nice but do not represent half the beauty of the site!

After leaving the park, we went to the city. We arrived at 12:30, and we had only 6 hours to explore the city by our own. I know it seems we had plenty of time, but the hours passed by very quickly!

These are the places I visited; you could use it as a guide if you decide to go to Philly someday!

1-Independence Hall

10258349_10202737142941534_7417047870399898862_n  

2-Liberty Bell Center

LibertyBell-IndepHall-small

3-Reading Terminal Market

10277813_10202737148021661_8472029141963830493_n

1723480_10202737149901708_1260578676972299194_n

 

10299949_10202737150461722_1045177986307913537_n

4-City Hall

10246382_10202737157901908_5223193389222185303_n

5-Love Statue

10270279_10202737162862032_3695803311740018557_n

6-Swann Memorial Fountain

img_6248-copy

7-Free Library of Philadelphia

10003936_10202737165942109_8628362990624048099_n

8-Rodin Museum

1010880_10202737174022311_6580293237964972594_n

9-Barnes Foundation

1002688_10202737170822231_655085871793372616_n

10-Philadelphia Museum of Art

10300297_10202737178542424_223443065938422591_n

11-Rocky Statue

rocky-statue-philadelphia-600