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Navigating the International Student Experience at FGCU

Navigating+the+International+Student+Experience+at+FGCU
Abigail Muth

Stepping onto campus in a foreign country with a world of possibilities ahead, international students at FGCU embark on a journey of adaptation. 

According to Global International Services Coordinator, Eniada Xhoxhi, there are roughly 300 international students attending FGCU. 

Attending FGCU as an international student can be an intimidating experience at first. However, even before international students arrive in America, FGCU Global International Services is in contact with students about accommodations, tuition costs and planning their college lives.

“Before international students even arrive on campus, we make sure their registration and housing are secured. Housing has become an issue as of lately, so we are trying our best to support on- and off-campus living for students,” Xhoxhi said. 

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Available on-campus housing is in high demand since the influx of international students. Cost has gone up, and there isn’t enough housing available for students.

According to Xhoxhi, the only way international students can secure a spot in residency is by applying on time. Housing is not guaranteed. The Global International Services said, “the early bird gets the worm.” 

The international students who aren’t able to secure housing on time go on a waitlist. After being waitlisted, their next opportunity to apply for housing isn’t until the next semester. This is why Global International Services emphasizes the importance of making sure international students apply early. 

“According to the Southern Foundation Scholarship, the on-campus housing scholarship at North-Lake Village Pilot House is only available to female students, as that is the stipulation of the scholarship, given that the Pilot House at the FGCU NLV is centered around community-style living for female students only,” Xhoxhi said. 

Global International Services also educates students on rental and leasing contracts when looking for housing. They want students to be able to differentiate between housing that’s too expensive or offers that may be a scam. Global Services encourages students to double-check legitimacy and think before signing a contract or agreeing to anything. 

“It’s important for students to be cautious and have alerts up when planning on signing a lease or a contract. Never send down payments or deposits. International students have sent deposits or down payments in and have been scammed in the past. Global Services doesn’t want to see students fall victim to these scams,” Xhoxhi said. 

Sophomore Adail Alvs is from Brazil and experienced the help of Global Services in his transition to America and FGCU. 

“My experience as an international student has been amazing. I came here facing many challenges like having no housing or scholarships. The support from the international office staff like Timothy and Melissa was essential for my success here. The international community overall is so friendly and helpful with new students. I’m living my dream here in these 15 months in Fort Myers and FGCU,” Alvs said.

Global International Services works similarly to the admission offices to make the transition smoothly for international students. Global International Services immediately takes over and walks international students through the residential and financial processes upon their admission to FGCU. 

North Lake is most preferred by students because of the lake, cooking, privacy and easy transportation. 

“Transportation is also a challenge for international students, so we prefer students to live closer to campus […] because they have shuttles for students that will make it easier for them to get back and forth on campus,” Xhoxhi said. 

Additionally, the dorm schedule for international students during Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break remains open. Students have the option, with no additional cost, to stay on campus. 

International students may also feel homesick or face cultural shock from settling into a new environment at FGCU. However, the university offers special organizations designed to help international students meet and connect with other students at FGCU. The organizations consist of clubs, events and orientation activities. 

“We have a special orientation called the onboarding session, which is a daylong orientation of giving students different tips and tricks to help students get used to campus.  We have CAPS, UPD and Health and Wellness. We have different organizations set in place to help students deal with cultural shock or homesickness,” Xhoxhi said. 

FGCU has a GEO-Ambassadors program that is a mentor-mentee relationship. International students typically match up with domestic students or other international students where they will be shown around campus and learn good places to shop. The goal is to have a friendly face around campus and to invite new students to organizations they may be interested in. There are different student organizations on campus dedicated to promoting cultural awareness like the Latin American Student Organization.

“I wish to highlight here that among our international student population, we have high levels of student retention. I would say as high as 95%. That’s because we strategically focus on their development and sense of belonging on campus,” Xhoxhi said. 

The purpose of all these GEO-Ambassadors, RSO’s and collaborative work is the societal culture integration for FGCU and the community to build a sense of belonging for students. 

Junior Kyle Burnet, an international student from England, said, “Being an international student at FGCU is an exciting and unique experience. I can immerse in a new culture, make friends across the pond and broaden my horizon. It can also be challenging sometimes, but it’s an excellent opportunity for personal growth.

International student Guiling Guo’s experience at FGCU has been an extraordinary journey of personal growth and academic achievement, thanks to the extensive support and resources the university offers to its international students.

“Throughout my journey, the unwavering support from the FGCU Global Engagement Office was a source of reassurance. The staff, knowledgeable and approachable, addressed my concerns and facilitated every aspect of my transition. In particular, Dr. Gjini’s guidance was pivotal; without his support, I might not have considered graduate school. Thanks to the GEO staff, I no longer feel like a ‘stranger’ from a foreign country,” Guo said. 

FGCU also offers jobs for students on campus so they can pay for expenses or save money. FGCU offers $12 an hour and 20 hours a week during the academic school year and full-time on official breaks. 

“I got my job and both scholarships due the advice I received from the international office. Timothy has been my mentor since I was in Brazil, and I always share my goals and achievements with him,” Alvs said. 

There are guidelines that international students need to comply with such as maintaining a study visa for full-time enrollment, a minimum of 12 credit hours per fall and spring semester, health insurance, good academic progress and timely graduation. The reason for the guidelines is to ensure that students remain focused on their reason for being at FGCU.

“My main advice for international students is to explore all the opportunities you can inside and outside FGCU. There are many ways here to learn, develop skills and make money. I see some students just focused on classes and forget the amazing campus and city we have here,” Alvs said.

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About the Contributor
Abigail Muth, Eagle News Editor-in-Chief
Abigail Muth is a senior studying journalism and was a transfer student from Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Abbey was born and raised in the Cleveland area and wanted to be a teacher until her sophomore year when she discovered a passion for writing. Her dream job would be to write features or shoot documentaries for companies like National Geographic or Patagonia. Abbey is passionate about the outdoors and traveling and hopes that one day she will be able to incorporate those things into her career. When not editing or writing stories or responding to emails, Abbey can be found reading on her lanai or walking her puppy on the beach!

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