international

Santa Fe College President Jackson Sasser speaks to more than 50 international students on Wednesday afternoon.

 

Isabel Bonnet / Alligator

A group of about 50 international students sought answers and support from faculty members at Santa Fe College on Wednesday.

Santa Fe President Jackson Sasser, alongside members of the Counseling and International Student Center, gathered to meet with the students in a show of support following President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

Of the 300 international students attending Santa Fe, about 10 of them are from the seven countries affected by the ban.

One such student, who requested anonymity for fear of her safety, said she constantly feels judged by Americans for being Muslim. Before arriving in Gainesville two months ago and enrolling at Santa Fe, she fled from Syria to Qatar in 2011, escaping in time to avoid being caught in the middle of Syria’s bloody civil war.

Friends and family members were not so lucky, becoming victims of the bloody battle. After hearing about Trump’s executive orders barring the entry of citizens from seven Muslim-majority nations — and freezing the acceptance of Syrian refugees indefinitely — she “cried her eyes out.”

“My sister-in-law is giving birth, and my mom was supposed to take the plane today to be with her,” she said. “She had to cancel the trip.”

While trying to get her driver’s license, she said she felt scared and paranoid.

“I was scared they would tell me they couldn’t issue my license because I’m Syrian,” she said. “It breaks my heart that we have to go through this.”

While Angelica Suarez, the International Student Service Coordinator, talked to the students who gathered Wednesday, she cried and hugged the Syrian student.

“We care for you, I care for all of you,” she said. “You’re here because you’re open to learn. Don’t lose hope.”

Administrative officials offered students the chance to sign a directory information exclusion request, which will prevent the college from releasing any personal information or immigration status about the students except when required by law.

Fatao Ouedraogo, 21, stood up at the end of the meeting to express his concern about an experience when he asked his adviser how to earn financial support to pay for his tuition. He said the adviser told him he could go back to Burkina Faso if he couldn’t pay for his studies.

“The United States is the first or second richest country in the world, and I come from one of the poorest countries in the world,” the Santa Fe engineering student said.

Ouedraogo asked Sasser if it was possible to give a scholarship to people coming from countries in crisis, adding that international students pay three times more than in-state students.

“Floridians have paid taxes all of their life,” Sasser replied. “There’s a reason for the difference.”

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the directory information exclusion request prevents the college from reporting any personal information or immigration status about the student, except when required by law.