by Chris PeöaDaily Cougar Staff
With nearly 2,000 international students, the University of Houston ranks behind only UT in the number of foreign citizens studying in Texas universities.
The main link between those students and UH is the office of International Student and Scholar Services.
Anita Gaines, director of ISSS, said her office helps alleviate any problem an international student might encounter.
"Our office provides the orientation at the beginning of the semester for new, international students, letting them know about the culture shock that they're going to experience," Gaines said.
"Then we go on to the services of the university as well as the city itself," she added. "We provide all the ongoing services, helping them maintain their legal status -- we have counselors who are experts in immigration law."
Gaines said international students usually need assistance when dealing with the Immigration and Naturalization Service, especially if they need to extend the length of their stay in the United States.
"We help them with extensions to stay and continue from one degree program to another," she said. "If they have fallen out of (their legal) status, there's a procedure called reinstatement, and also if they need to change their visa -- (there are) a number of different things that need to be done for international students to maintain their status."
Gaines said the government shutdown affected many UH international students.
"It came at a time when new students were trying to get their visas to come to UH, as well as continuing students who had gone home for the holidays," Gaines said. "A few were unable to get their visas, and so were unable to come here."
One of the advantages to having so many international students is that they sell the university to others at home, Gaines said.
"Word gets around about the quality and the reputation of (UH's) programs," she said.
Gaines, who is from nearby Hempstead, received both her bachelor's and master's degrees from UH. One of her jobs, before eventually returning to her alma mater as an assistant director in ISSS, took her to Chile.
Gaines said getting to know the students she serves is satisfying.
"Sometimes the parents come to visit and they bring them to meet the staff," she said. "It's very exciting."