International Student Assistants Develop Professional Skills & Provide Valuable Service
Employment & Learning Opportunities at CU DenverMar 18, 2022
“In Afghanistan, I was denied access to education and work due to the turmoil that quickly engulfed the country,” explained Masooda Shareefy. But education was highly valued in her family, and she persevered in seeking solutions.
Shareefy learned about the exceptional degree programs at the University of Colorado Denver and the institution’s commitment to the long-term academic and personal success of its students. She discovered a wide variety of financial aid and scholarship opportunities that are offered for international undergraduates. In Spring 2022, eleven new first-year international students received scholarships to the university ranging from $5,000 - $10,000 per year as a part of a pilot merit scholarship program.
“CU Denver is really committed to equity, and one of the best ways to achieve equity is to provide educational opportunities to low-income international students,” said Shareefy. “Coming from Afghanistan without the scholarship offer from CU Denver, I personally would never have been able to pursue a degree in my dream field of business.”
She applied for and received both a merit-based scholarship as well as a needs-based scholarship. As a First-Year undergraduate student, Shareefy is earning her bachelor’s degree in business administration at CU Denver’s Business School.
“CU Denver has a very warm and welcoming environment. I feel grateful to be surrounded by professors who are experts with real-world business experience, and diverse classmates and colleagues from all over the world.” Shareefy views the culture of Denver as a winning “mix of an urban city and a small town.”
She also applied for and obtained employment as a Student Assistant. International Student Assistants provide valuable help throughout the Office of International Affairs (OIA). Through email, phone, and in-person, they provide guidance on the steps needed for application and admission into the university, information about visas and immigration processes, travel updates, information about OIA cultural and recreational activities, resources for housing and life in Colorado, and a multitude of other subjects. Several of the assistants also represent CU Denver at virtual recruitment events for international students and create content for various OIA social media accounts.
"Student workers are vital members of the Office of International Affairs team," said Alana C. Jones, Associate Vice Chancellor of International Affairs. "We cannot successfully deliver on the university's internationalization goals without the important perspectives that international students provide as part of our daily operations." Jones also acknowledged that the ability to obtain employment on campus "can be an essential variable for international students in choosing CU Denver or CU Anschutz."
Keerthichand (K.C.), an OIA Student Assistant who is from India, noted, “I help international students feel comfortable with asking their questions. I faced similar issues when I arrived here, and can advise them on processes that can help them avoid mistakes.” He added with a smile, “Many of our international students learned ‘British English’, so we help them interpret what things mean when information is in ‘American English’.”
Shareefy observed, “CU Denver continuously works on improving processes to make them easier for international students. I test out IT systems for user errors and report any bug issues in the application process to the IT team so that these can be resolved.”
She feels that her role as an International Student Assistant is very rewarding. “I go home every day thinking I made a difference in someone’s life, a person that lives in a whole new country.”
Planned professional development is a part of the student assistants’ employment experience in OIA.
“Our International Student Assistants are highly adaptable and take in a lot of information at a quick pace as they represent some of the best and brightest students from their countries. They bring country-specific knowledge, an understanding of the global marketplace, new perspectives, cross-cultural competencies and foreign language proficiency, among other things,” explained Mary Margaret Herman, International Enrollment Operations Manager. "I cannot say enough about how lucky our office is to have our International Student Assistants!"
Clarity of expectations and goals is discussed with the student employee. For example, within the first three months, an International Student Assistant who is helping with application and admissions cycles will become proficient in document verification, managing Slate system queries related to citizenship and visa types, and verifying English Language Proficiency (ELP) scores. During the next six months, they will master the ability to manage the International College Beijing (ICB) process, identify issues in student records within the CU-SIS system, and participate in virtual recruitment events. Between nine months and a year of training, the worker begins to handle residency requests, contribute efforts to setting enrollment targets for future semester terms, and become involved in planning international recruitment trips with their supervisor.
Shareefy advises other international students who are considering studies or work at CU Denver to explore all that the university has to offer. “CU Denver offers tons of opportunities for personal and professional growth. Take advantage of the opportunities, attend events, network with others, and build relationships with students and with those around you.”
After the long journey from Afghanistan to Colorado, USA, Shareefy is thriving in school, in her job, and in her new environment.
“My family is very proud of me for being able to quickly get a scholarship at one of the best U.S. schools, pursue my dream of getting an education, and be able to live in freedom as a woman.”