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Staying Culturally Rooted While Assimilating Other Cultures

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For many international students, experiencing culture shock is something that they have to prepare for. However, no amount of personal and educational preparation can really ever prepare you for the harsh realities ahead. While international curriculum calls for the integration of American ideologies, customs, and norms within the framework of a much broader transcultural understanding, many international students simply forget that learning new cultures does not necessarily mean forgetting your own.

Perhaps what should be taught in higher institutions of learning is the respect for other people’s cultures – their traditions, value belief systems, and norms – that, in the American way of life, may be found to be very different. Adopting the ideas of a significantly different culture should never amount to losing your own unique cultural identity. For the most part of it, it is your own unique gift as a socioculturally different individual that landed you in one of the US’s premiere institutions of learning as an international student.

While American educational institutions talk about freedom of speech, equality, civil rights, and the right to self-determination, topics that are discussed and defended every single minute, many international students seem to be all too engrossed in these ideas. International students soon develop the impression that everything looks so liberating and straight-forward in America that they begin to compare their own cultural roots.

Whether you like it or not, there simply is no way to compare one culture to another simply because everyone has its own unique system of believing in and doing things. Just because your culture is greatly rooted in gender norms where men are largely taken to be the provider of the family and women more relegated to menial household chores does not mean that you should already be shouting for gender equality. While it may be right in the US, some countries still hold onto the timeless tradition of gender inequality. You may have also forgotten that this perceived gender-inequality in your own culture is actually what keeps the family together. Sure the US has gender equality yet looking at the divorce rates where women are far readier to file for a divorce than men, does this mean Americans do not value family ties?

Some countries are deeply religious and they often have prayer rituals for almost everything. Usually, even before a construction project can be initiated, they might call for the clergy to bless the project. In America, this might be seen as a total waste of time. But if you are going to reflect on the religiosity of your culture, more than 90 percent of whom are devout Catholics, will you even blame them for praying to God for some kind of salvation? You may now realize the often fatalistic attitude of your culture, always leaving everything else to the will of some Mighty power. But did you ever stop and reflect that you were actually raised that way?

International students are placed in a position where they can enjoy the best of both worlds. This means that they can actually learn new things about an entirely different culture and use this knowledge to enhance, not criticize, their very own culture. Whether or not your culture is sufficiently flawed in the eyes of American culture, it is still pretty much what brought you to America. So, learn to appreciate the wrong and be proud of the right. Show your love for you who really are, who you are now becoming, and who you as well as your country have been in the past.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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Packing Advice that International College Student Should Consider

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Deciding on which clothes to bring and listing of the school necessities is already difficult. However, packing for your international flight is a lot more difficult because as you add more items to your luggage you also add additional cost for shipping. So, it is very crucial that you pack wisely. Consider only the things that you really need to give you a good start when you arrive in the U.S. There are items that can help you cut on cost when you purchase them when you arrive. Later on, when you have adapted to your new environment and have saved a significant amount of money, you can decide to spend on items that you want.

To help you out, below is a list of the things you need to bring when you leave and the things you need to buy when you arrive.

Things to Bring When You Leave Home

* The right amount of appropriate clothes. This means clothes that would the weather in your destination. Surely, you have a good number of this kind of clothes. Choose the ones you really like and you are comfortable with. Buying clothes when you arrive can be very expensive.

* Toiletries and bath towel. You would surely use these when you arrive at your new temporary home.

* Proof of identity such as student visa and passport. Aside from this proof of identification, it would be better to check with your university’s international student office to determine what other requirements you need to bring.

* Multipurpose travel adaptor. The buildings and institutions in your country might possible have a different type of outlet compared to the country of your destination. SO, it would be a smart idea to bring an adaptor, particularly a multipurpose one, so you can use all your electronic devices.

* Items with personal significance such as mementos. Though you cannot bring huge, tangible heirlooms, you can bring photos and accessories with sentimental value that would always remind you of home and your family.

Things to Buy When You Arrive in Your Destination

* Multipurpose cleaning wipes. These are small items but have a lot of uses. You’ll need a lot of these when cleaning and arranging your new room.

* Shower shoes and slippers. If you have your own bathroom you can just buy the slippers. The bathrobe is also important, so buy at least one.

* Multi-plugs and extension cords. This would prove to be useful when you are already in your new room. However, you need to check first with your new university whether or not keeping of these items is allowed.

* First-aid kit. Even if you’re not an international student, keeping a handy first-aid kit is always useful and beneficial.

* Sewing kit. You should at least have the basic items such as needle, string, and scissors.

* Hangers and tableware. These would keep your closet and your mini-kitchen organized and functional.

* Shelves and storage boxes. You can buy these later on, as you will need these when you already have many books to read and use as references.

Aside from the above, you also need to buy USB drive, books and other academic resources. 

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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H-4 Visa EAD for Spouses

2The law was passed in 2014/2015. H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants can file Form I-765 and Application for Employment Authorization.

Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses final rule (H-4 rule) took effect last May 26, 2015. It seeks to support the objectives of attracting and retaining highly-skilled foreign workers and minimizing disruption to businesses in the United States resulting from H-1B non-immigrants who choose not to remain in the United States and pursue LPR status.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility is granted to H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants. However your H-1B non-immigrant spouse must be:

– The principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 and Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

– He or she has been granted H-1B status under sections 106 (a) and (b) of the AC21. The AC21 authorizes H-1B non-immigrants seeking employment-based and legitimate permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit.

How to Apply

You must file Form I-765 and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD/Form I-766) from the USCIS before you are granted permission to work.

USCIS continues to accept the older version of Form I-765 with edition date of 05/27/08 or later. However, the Service encourages H-4 applicants to use the newer version with an edition date of 02/13/15 to prevent delays or the need for USCIS to issue you request for evidence.

Follow these steps to prevent your application from being rejected:

Complete Form I-765 based on Instructions for Form I-765. USCIS will reject any application which has not been signed or accompanied by the proper filing fees. The fee is $380. You cannot file Form I-765 for category (c) (26) together with a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status at the Lock-box address for Form I-765 category (c) (26).

In filing a Form I-485, you must follow the Form I-485 instructions and submit your Form I-485 to the correct filing address. If you file a Form I-765 together with a Form I-485 at the filing address for Form I-765 category (c) (26), USCIS will reject the Form I-485 and corresponding fees. Additionally, if you included the fees for both forms on the same check or money order, USCIS may also reject your Form I-765 for category (c) (26). Note: If you are filing Form I-765 together with Form I-485 at the USCIS location noted for Form I-485, specify your work eligibility category as (c) (9) and pay only the Form I-485 filing fee (and not the Form I-765 filing fee) to avoid delays in processing.  

Submit supporting evidence since this will reduce the possibility that USCIS will still ask you for more evidence.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

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J-1 visa: Exchange Visitor

j1visa1 J-1 classification or (exchange visitors program) is meant for individuals planning to participate in an approved course. There are multiple purposes such as teaching; delivering lectures; studying; conducting research; observing; consulting; demonstrating unique skills; undergoing training; and, receiving medical education or training.

The Department of State appoints public as well as private entities to act as exchange sponsors for the Exchange Visitor Program. J-1 non-immigrants are sponsored by an exchange program designated as such by the US State Department. These programs promote the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills. These are in the fields of education, arts, and sciences.

Examples of exchange visitors include but are not limited to the following:
* Professors or scholars
* Research assistants
* Students
* Trainees
* Teachers
* Specialists
* Nannies/Foreign students working as domestic helpers
* Camp counselors

Application Process

The Department of State is in charge of administering the J-1 exchange visitor program. The first step in acquiring a J-1 visa is to submit a DS-2019 Form together with a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, (formerly known as an IAP-66). This form will be provided by your sponsoring agency. Work closely with officials from your sponsoring agency. They will assist you throughout the entire process.  The Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) is authorized to issue Form DS-2019. They will provide you with a list of required documents for issuance of a DS-2019.

After obtaining the Form DS-2019, you may apply for a J-1 visa through the State Department at any US embassy or consulate. The waiting time for interview appointment of applicants can vary. Thus, submit your visa application as early as possible (though you are not allowed to enter the United States with J-1 status more than 30 days before your program begins).
Employment

Some J-1 non-immigrants enter the United States specifically to work (as researchers or nannies) while others do not. Employment is permitted for J-1 non-immigrants only under the terms of the exchange program. Please check with your sponsoring agency for more information on any restrictions that may apply to working in the United States.  
Family of J-1 Visa Holders

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, are entitled to J-2 classification. Your spouse and children are also entitled to work authorization. However, their income may not be used to support you.  To apply for work authorization as a J-2 non-immigrant, your spouse or child must file Form I-765 or Application for Employment Authorization. For more information on the application procedures, check out the “Work Authorization” page.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

Learn more about Greenhandshake