11 years later: International students reflect on 9/11

By Riley Swinford

Eleven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, some international students say they still feel the event’s effects.

From stereotypes and racism to increased security procedures, some international students said they feel like life after the World Trade Center attacks is much different than life before.

Ziyad Alotaibi, a freshman from Saudi Arabia studying English, is Muslim and said the attacks created a misrepresentation of what his religion is about.


“It was terrible for me,” he said. “I felt bad because the guy that did the attack represented Islam. Now American people think Islam is a bad thing to do or to practice.”

Alotaibi said the acts of one person should not ruin the reputation of the whole group of people.

“In my opinion, it’s very different than what that guy did,” he said. “In my religion, Islam didn’t tell us to do the same thing that the guy did. I feel very terrible.”

Alotaibi also said the misbelief has made it hard for him to socialize and make friends in the U.S. However, he said he hopes to change people’s minds by showing them that all Muslims aren’t bad.

“If I want to make friends or interact with people, it’s hard to say I’m Muslim,” he said. “I’m doing my best to change their minds (and) their bad ideas. It’s very hard and very important at the same time. A lot of people have a very bad idea about Islam.”

Carla Coppi, director of the Center for International Education, said the Sept. 11 attacks also brought other hardships to international students.

As a result of the attacks, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System — a computerized tracking program — was established in January 2003. The system requires additional levels of computerized review and reporting within a matter of days on international students to control the admission of exchange visitors, international students and scholars who enter the U.S. on visas.


Coppi called the change very dramatic.

“There’s a lot of clerical type of computer review now that me and my team of four other compliance individuals have to perform,” she said. “It is very time consuming because there are updates that have to be done every semester on our registered students.”

Coppi also said the visa-obtaining process to come to the United States has changed. In the past, she said, it took students six weeks or two months to obtain a visa, but now it takes six months or longer.

“It is much more difficult for students to get visas,” she said. “It is much more time consuming, particularly if you are from particular countries. There has to be extensive and lengthy background checks.”

Coppi said the wait time presents challenges to students who are trying to come to the U.S. for college.

“Students have to put off their educational dreams or delay them, or put them off forever because it takes so long to get a visa,” she said.

Nicolas Martinez, a student from Colombia studying English as a second language, said safety concerns are the biggest thing he has noticed as an international student.

“It’s like two different places before and after Sept. 11,” he said. “All of the American people are very concerned with safety and especially with people from this culture of Islam. They think bad about them.”

Santosh Bahusrutham, a graduate student in physiology from India, was in middle school in India when the attacks happened. He said he still feels the effects of Sept. 11, but it is much better than it was immediately after.

“Maybe a couple years back it would have been harder, but it’s not too bad,” he said. “A couple of my friends from Saudi Arabia had a tough time, but there’s been a gradual progression. At first, they saw all people and thought we were all Muslim. But now, they see that India is a different country than the Middle Eastern Arabic. You can’t fault people for being scared.”

Coppi said most international students understand why things are the way they are.

“When I have talked to students, students have told me that they understand why the U.S. government wants to keep their country safe,” she said. “I have to say here in year 11, there has been some more leniency and it’s less threatening emotionally for the students now.”

For last years 10 year anniversary edition go to http://issuu.com/gusbode/docs/gud0yj?mode=window&backgroundColor=%23222222