While most American students do not choose to leave the country seeking high-quality college education, our own colleges and universities are magnets for students from around the world seeking to better themselves academically.
Tristan Gao, a Sherman Oaks resident, is an international student who has started his college career on this campus.
Gao, 28, a student from Guangzhou, China, is among 500 students on campus who have traveled vast distances to receive an education in the U.S. He has been enrolled in courses at the college for 2 1/2 years.
“I realized the U.S. had a famous education system and good diversity,” said Gao.
With this in mind, Gao applied for a student visa and began to prepare the many documents necessary to qualify for the journey to the U.S.
The process which takes place a year in advance is not an easy task.
For the student to qualify, they are required to submit bank statements to the school in order to verify their financial status.
“You have to show you have sufficient funds to support your education,” said Gao.
And the costs are high. Non-residents pay $140 per unit, as opposed to $18 for California residents. This amounts to nearly $2,300 for a full-time schedule, significantly higher than the resident’s tuition.
Although Gao’s parents helped financially through the first year, he has been supporting himself for the remainder of the time.
Applicants also must send in proof of a high school diploma, a letter of recommendation, and a resume. Students are also required to receive a high score on the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language).
According to Gao, the American government sets barriers for China, making it extremely difficult for foreign students to receive a visa. One of the many barriers is quotas, which allow for only 100 to 200 students from a country.
It takes about a year to receive a visa.
Gao’s family was emotionally supportive from the beginning. They told him: “If you like it, you do it.”
Gao visited his family in Guangzhou after his first summer in the U.S. in 2001. That was just before 9/11.
It has become very difficult for international students to visit their families since 9/11, and therefore he is doubtful about returning to China anytime soon.
“Of course they miss me,” said Gao. “But so far my family supports me in any change and in any chance.”
Although he misses his family and friends back home, Gao believes his hard work will pay off in the long run.
He has enjoyed his stay in the U.S. and has visited various states and cities across the country including San Diego, San Francisco, New York and Florida.
Gao is preparing to transfer to CSUN to study business administration, with the hopes of staying in the country after graduating.
“I still have to wait four to five years to get work,” said Geo. “But if I’m not that lucky, and if no one hires me, I will go back and travel to Europe or Spain to look over the different cultures and countries.”