Foreign Students Need Assistance Upon Arrival

Gustavo Damian Danemann Soto, Features Editor

Every school should… ensure [that] foreign students aren’t left out.

“Coming to a new country, having to start again at a new school, and making new friends is pretty tough. But getting no kind of help in adapting academically, especially during this crazy time, made it ten times harder,” said Sophomore Paula Danemann Soto.

Danemann had been waiting to be able to study in America for years. When the opportunity came to begin high school here in San Diego last school year, she was overwhelmed with joy and excitement. But as the weeks went by and the beginning of the school year was inching closer, Danemann realized just how little information she was given about the school. She remembers wondering, “How would my schedule be? What about clubs? Will I ever get a school ID?” In the first few weeks of school, it became very evident to her: Americans have no idea how to welcome foreign students.

As her experience began during a global pandemic, Danemann believes it would be unfair to directly blame the school or district, but she was truly shocked by just how much one is expected to already know about the American school system. According to the Los Angeles Times, California is the top destination for foreign students in America, with over 150,000 students from other countries coming to study. It’s worrying to see that a state so rich and supposedly progressive doesn’t have something as easy as a guide for new students (

Because of how little she knew about the process, enrolling in classes became a problem for Danemann. “I did my previous school years in Mexico, so they didn’t know where to place me,” Danemann said. Even when expressing desire to take the most advanced Spanish course, as this is Danemann’s first language, the AP class was not an option. She was told she “…didn’t have the necessary credits.” It was quite baffling to her that she could not be in this Spanish course because of not taking the prerequisite class in this country. She was also placed in a normal level English course because English is not her first language.

Even something as simple as writing Danemann’s full name correctly became a problem. “In some other countries it is common to have two first names and two last names, yet the school either hyphenates them or puts  them together,” said Danemann. This is just one example of the lack of understanding of foreign customs, as one is asked to do everything the American way.

As reported by an immigration services organization, America is the country with the most immigrants in the world ( And according to Forbes, “…rolling out the welcome mat for international students is the ultimate win-win.” So why are foreign students still not receiving the necessary help? Some may believe that students are given all of the information they need by counselors and teachers, and that if a student has a question, they should simply ask it. But this completely disregards many of the struggles international students go through. Many are insecure about their English level or accent, and may struggle to approach staff (

Granted, there are quite a lot of great things about American schools, but their way of welcoming foreign students surely is not one of them. Perhaps there is a support system to help those new to America’s education system. But if so, students are not being informed about it. California should require all schools to make a thorough and clear guide about their grading system and schedules, what is expected of the students, and answer some basic FAQs. And every school should also be responsible for making these resources known to ensure foreign students aren’t left out. “Something that simple could have saved me a lot of time, energy, and stress,” said Danemann.