International students deserve more support during registration

Augustine D’Eramo, Columnist

UT is a leading university when it comes to international exchange programs. Every year, Texas Global sends over 4,400 students abroad for academic and professional enrichment, the third highest number of students in international programs across the nation. On the reverse side, 1,739 international undergraduate students study annually at UT. 

However, many international students at UT are frustrated with their registration experience. Although Texas Global faculty and academic advisors offer assistance, there is little accomplished when registration takes place just days before classes start. In some cases, inconsistent communication adds further difficulty to the process. UT needs to improve the registration process for international students by offering more reliable communication, earlier registration and more course options.

Antonio Rivera, a mechanical engineering graduate student from Madrid, struggled during registration due to communication issues as well as late registration. 

“Suddenly they told us about requirements we hadn’t seen before … regarding visa status. … We actually needed to take at least six credits in the major we were studying,” Rivera said. “They were telling us some things but then the next week, we had different instructions.”

Rivera had issues with late registration. He received course schedule information in April, but registration wouldn’t come until several months later, on Aug. 19. By that time, the number of courses applicable to his major greatly diminished. As a result, he encountered various issues with his visa clearance.

“In the end it was a mess. … I got accepted into my last class two hours before the deadline. So I could have been deported,” Rivera said. 

With little time to navigate the intricacies of UT registration, exchange students scramble to find applicable courses and avoid visa complications. It often works out, but the uncertainty of the process adds onto an already stressful time of adaptation for these students. 

“The registration process for international students is the same as our other student populations. … As students’ progress towards their degree, they will get earlier access to register than the previous semester,” Kathleen Harrison, assistant director of University marketing and communications, said in an email.

Yet, reality shows that it’s not the same for international students. UT requires upper-division and lower-division students alike to register in August. 

Matthew McAlpine, a finance and psychology junior from Sydney, was unable to take many of his desired classes as a result of late registration. 

“We were given access to registration two or three days before classes started, which meant that a lot of the classes I wanted to take weren’t available,” McAlpine said. “I was lucky that I got a couple of my waitlisted subjects, … but I do know some people that didn’t get their waitlisted subjects and struggled to pull through.”

Registration looks very different for international students, and there should be special provisions which ensure that they have a fair chance of getting the classes they need. 

To create a more supportive registration process, UT needs to offer more reliable communication, earlier registration and more course options to international exchange students. The University could improve communication by providing joint orientation sessions with foreign universities prior to the students’ arrival in Austin. Such collaboration would foster consistent and timely sharing of registration information. 

If international students could enroll in courses before their arrival, they would avoid visa conflicts and have a less stressful transition to UT. Nonetheless, students would still likely face course availability options even with earlier registration. Therefore, it is important that more courses specific to international students are available.

D’Eramo is a Plan II and international relations junior from Tyler, Texas.