Daenuwy and Samer Saadeh
you go home again? Issues facing international students
students face graduation having passed through wrenching separations
from their families and difficult feelings of cultural isolation.
have overcome these trials and thrived far from home. But now
they must choose between that home and their adopted land.
is much to consider. Parents wishes, career goals and socio-political
realities sometimes block the road home, while staying in the
U.S. entails struggles with immigration red tape. The choice is
often years in the making.
I first came here, I wasnt sure if I would go home after
I graduated, said Astari Daenuwy, a foreign affairs and
Asian studies major from Indonesia. I couldnt visit
home for a year-and-a-half. My first priority was to adjust.
sense of cultural distance from American peers often leads international
students to stick close to one another. Daenuwy befriended students
of many ethnicities but at times clung to fellow Indonesians.
I go a week without speaking Indonesian I feel strange,
she said. When Im uncomfortable with Americans, I
know there are certain people I can go to. Theyre my home
coming years, she would rely on that common understanding as the
economic and political situation in Indonesia worsened. When
you open the paper and read about riots and killings, it hurts,
she misses home, she leans toward staying in the U.S. for a few
years while her country regains its footing. I do foresee
a better future for Indonesia, but Im not sure when that
will happen, she said.
Yeh Chu Chan, an electrical engineering major from Ghana, considered
similar issues in his decision. The economy back home is
horrible, he said. Theres no future there.
he initially struggled with homesickness, Chan always intended
to stay in America. My parents wanted me to start my life
here. Im used to [the United States] now and I want to stay.
Ocampo, a comparative literature major from Colombia, decided
to continue her education. I am at a point right now where
I dont have enough tools to do anything significant back
home. She will enter Brown University as a graduate student
in the fall to pursue her dream of becoming a professor.
and foreign affairs major Samer Saadeh was born in Lebanon but
moved to Switzerland 10 years ago. He plans to return to Europe
after working in the U.S. for a short time with a specific purpose
feel that you can get responsibility and experience more quickly
here, he said. In America, young people are valued
more than in Europe, where seniority is very important.
in the United States to work, however, involves navigating through
a complicated legal process.
international students enter the country on an F-1 visa, which
allows for a set period of schooling and 12 months of optional
practical training, paid work in the United States
that is related to the students field of study.
practical training is complete, non-citizens must receive employer
sponsorship for an H-1B work visa, which lasts up to six years.
large technology companies in places such as Silicon Valley have
lobbied to have H-1B quotas increased to fill employment gaps,
smaller companies sometimes balk at hiring foreign nationals.
Less familiar with the process, they fear entanglement with immigration
laws and fees.
says that he does not sense any discrimination. But Saadeh, whose
job with Dell Computers fell through, said, Employers are
hesitant to hire foreigners. You feel it the first time you talk
who had a work-study job with U.Va. Conference Services for two
years, feels prepared to enter the American workforce full-time.
I have learned about American work ethics and values,
she said. Here, for example, being respectful to your elders
does not necessarily mean not letting your thoughts be known.
know that I cant just take these [Americanized] ways and
force them on people, said Daenuwy, who plans to go home
in five years. Maybe thats why I dont want to
all aspects of the American working world are so appealing. Saadeh
dislikes the growing culture of job insecurity, where 30-year
employees can suddenly be laid off when the company gets downsized.
After two years here, he hopes to return to Europe, where
there is more respect for the workers, he said.
all is said and done, the decision to stay or go ultimately comes
down to more emotional considerations, to places in the heart
unmoved by questions of money and career.
matter how long I live here, I will never feel at home like I
do in Europe, Saadeh said.
has similar feelings. My ideal place to settle down would
be Indonesia. My family is there and I want my children to know
them, she said.
in the United States has made my own country more exotic to me,
she added. When youre taken out of your home you see
[it with] an outsiders vision. You see beautiful things
youve taken for granted.