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Officials: Kuwaiti students heading to US must follow rules, guidelines

KUWAIT: Thousands of Kuwaiti students will soon be embarking on their educational journey abroad, traveling to many destinations, including the United States, to seek knowledge and academia. As the students open a new chapter in their lives, they have to be acquainted with rules, regulations and guidelines of their host countries during their stay. Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) interviewed Kuwait’s Cultural Office director in Washington DC Dr Adel Malallah, Cultural Attache at the American Embassy in Kuwait Katherine Garry and Education Advisor at the American Embassy in Kuwait Carine Nassrallah to demystify and answer most of the questions connected with the students’ upcoming venture.

All three emphasized students must be in constant communication with the academic advisor at the Cultural Office, the International Office advisor at the university and the academic advisor at the school attended. Dr Malallah stressed that a student “shouldn’t make a move,” without the knowledge of academic advisors, explaining that whether it was a change in majors, universities, or future plans and even change of address, the Cultural Office and the allocated academic advisor should be informed directly and immediately.

Students should be extremely careful when it came to abiding by the law, as something as trifle as lending a car to a roommate could risk putting one in great legal capacity, Dr Malallah said. He reiterated the importance to familiarize with the scholarship bylaws and degree requirements available at the official website of the Ministry of Higher Education to avoid prolonging the scholarship and other complications. He also advised new scholarship applicants to immediately apply for the American visa through its embassy in Kuwait as soon as they received their letter of admission (I-20) to the school they were interested in before finalizing the scholarship process.

Measures for “no-shows”

Dr Malallah urged new students to be at their new schools in the US on or before the start of their respective programs, as some universities could take measures for “no-shows”. About undertaking the English as a Second Language (ESL) semester(s) before jumping straight into the academic curriculum, Dr Malallah said that it might not be required for all students to take the optional ESL courses, especially students that graduated from American private schools. He still recommended going through ESL programs for students unfamiliar with the various aspects of living abroad. These courses were tailored to assist new and international students to cope with their new environment, adjust to the culture and prepare them to tackle their curriculum without having to worry about accommodation, transit or where everything is, he added.

Kuwait’s Ministry of Higher Education allowed for up to a year of the optional ESL courses for new bachelor’s degree students heading to the US, said Malallah, noting that such option was not allocated for medical scholarships. Universities for medical scholarships require a minimum score of 6.5 in International English Language Testing System (IELTS) based on an agreement the Kuwaiti Cultural Division made with the various institutes, he revealed. On the new students’ salaries, Dr Malallah said the pre-scholarship financial support would be deposited into the students’ Kuwaiti bank account whereas the actual monthly salary in the US, requires a US bank account, urging new students to initiate a new one and inform the cultural office as soon as they can when they arrive in the US.

Katherine Garry

Ask questions

Meanwhile, Cultural Attache at the American Embassy Katherine Garry advised new students to ask questions, referring to the advisors in the Kuwaiti mission in the US, the universities students are attending, and the American Embassy in Kuwait in regards to immigration and visa issuing. She added that it was crucial to understand the rules of the program the student was enrolled in from both the university and the scholarship represented by the Kuwaiti Cultural Office. Garry also advised students to familiarize themselves with common laws that differ from one state to another. She said that it was always best to read the “fine prints” in contracts, tickets or other contractual based services as to understand one’s rights, how to claim them or avoid implied penalties such as accumulating interest on over-drafted bank accounts and credit cards.

On the subject of banks accounts and transactions, Garry advised students to speak to their international student office at the university before opening an account and while it was a simple straightforward process, some guidelines should be followed. She advised against opening multiple accounts and over drafting, as all US bank accounts were monitored on the federal level and were linked directly to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) status of students and any unpaid dues will reflect and affect it. Garry added that students should apply for the student visa (F-1) on the embassy’s website as soon as they get their letter of admission from the chosen academic institution or as called (I-20) to avoid delays even though immigration and visa process at the embassy in Kuwait is working smoothly.

Carine Nassrallah

Direct contact

Expanding on the general guidelines for new students going to the US, Education Advisor at the American Embassy in Kuwait Carine Nassrallah reiterated the importance to be in consistent and direct contact with the international student’s office at each school. “Their main job is to ensure the immigration status of each student remain valid,” Nassrallah said. She explained that universities and through their required usage of SEVIS, which is a system established by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), keep students’ information updated in regard their academic status as there are minimum required credits students must take for their visa to continue its validity. She compared the SEVIS to the Kuwaiti civil ID, where all information was compiled under one number or ID.

She then emphasized the importance of attending the first week of orientation that each university usually holds, especially for international students, where they would discuss and disclose the various issues a student would want to know to settle and adapt to new environment and was a great chance to mingle, socialize and create new friendships. She reiterated the importance of abiding by the laws, from the federal, to the state laws and even building/accommodation laws as any violations and if not dealt with probably could snowball into a bigger problem regarding their SEVIS status. She said if a speeding ticket went unpaid, it could escalate to a court appearance. If a student did not attend, it could lead to an arrest and revoke of the visa status, she said, reiterating the importance of keeping all advisors and international student office updated in regards to any change of the current address, change of university or state. – KUNA

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