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UCLA students start research to cast light on international student-specific issues

UCLA admits students from nearly 80 countries each year. Pic: @uclaisa.

The research committee will focus on studying issues specific to international students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), with the aim on guiding future advocacy for this cohort of students on campus.

Its founder, Justin Gelzhiser, a graduate student in education, was inspired to start the research group through his travel and work as a teacher abroad, such as in countries like Costa Rica, Japan, Austria and and South Africa, according to Daily Bruin.

Seeing the difficulties foreigners face, he now empathises more with UCLA’s international students and hopes the committee can help with providing relevant information on issues such as the recent travel ban.

“The goal is to gather people together and to talk more,” Gelzhiser said.

“Often, problems on campus are just hearsay – they are not systematically understood through research. If we don’t fully understand these issues, change can’t happen at the level international students deserve.”

Five groups, each to include a faculty member, graduate student and undergraduate student, will be tasked to research one particular issue.

Preliminary research on issues such as immigration, campus policing and mental health stigma has already begun, Gelzhiser said.

“One of the goals of my research is to complicate the understanding of what it means to be an international student and show our campus that the individual stories of these students are just as diverse as they are,” he added.

Michael Skiles, Graduate Students Association president and one of the creators of the university’s International Student Leadership Coalition, said he thinks the recent national climate makes the committee’s work even more relevant and necessary.

“Right after the election, the international students had a whole new set of concerns,” Skiles said.

“There were issues with H1-B visas and students who were affected by the travel ban. The work Justin is doing now on gathering information of these issues is perhaps the most important part of the coalition.”

UCLA admits students from nearly 80 countries each year, making up a community that is 12,000-strong, according to the school’s website.

However, for the 2017-18 academic year, UCLA will be barred from increasing the number of undergraduates they accept from outside the state, including foreign students, after the release of an auditor’s report that said California high school graduates who otherwise were qualified for university admission have been losing out to non-state residents.

University of California’s (UC) President Janet Napolitano said the move is aimed at reaffirming UC’s “historic commitment” to California residents.

“Our new nonresident enrollment policy strikes the right balance between UC’s continued commitment to putting California students first and the significant benefits that out-of-state and international students provide the university,” said Napolitano.

“This policy represents a broad consensus achieved after extensive consultation with regents, legislators and other stakeholders.”

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