Mark Leffingwell
Zana Karimi, an international student from Iran, fills out paperwork during an orientation for international students at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado January 9, 2011.

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After at least a year of waiting, Zana Karimi is finally ready to start classes at the University of Colorado.

Karimi said he applied for a student visa in his home country, Iran, last spring but the process is complicated and often takes months or even years to complete.

“It is difficult in my country,” Karimi said. “I wanted to come in the fall but I didn’t have my visa yet.”

Karimi was one of about 10 international students who attended CU’s first information session Monday morning.

The sessions will continue twice a day throughout the week as students arrive in Boulder and begin preparing for the spring semester, said Becky Sibley, International Student and Scholar Adviser at CU.

“We are expecting 80 to 100 students this spring,” Sibley said. “We won’t know exactly how many until the end of the week.”

The new international student enrollment for the spring is average, Sibley said, but the ratio of graduate to undergraduate students is expected to shift.

“We usually have about 60 percent graduate and 40 percent undergraduates,” Sibley said. “This spring, we’re expecting the opposite, about 60 percent undergraduate.”

CU undergraduate Li Meijia, 23, from China, arrived in Boulder Thursday and is excited to start her spring classes.

Maijia said she wanted to attend CU in the fall but procrastination kept her away until now.

“My time management is not so good so it took longer to get here,” Meijia said.

Meijia said she is looking forward to meeting more international students and getting to know Americans in Boulder. Sibley said a new program offered by Boulder Friends of International Students — a local organization connecting Boulderites with foreign students — could increase Meijia’s chance of making American friends.

Previously, locals were required to commit a semester or school year to an international student to participate in the program. Now, there is a second option for participants who are looking to get their feet wet before jumping into a long-term commitment, Sibley said.

“A new pilot program offers a one-time dinner commitment,” Sibley said.

Locals are committed only to a single meal with the student giving them a chance to experience the international community without being forced to continue communicating with the student for the remainder of the semester, Sibley said. Locals and students can sign up for the pilot program anytime by visiting the Boulder Friends of International Students website, 

Sibley said she hopes the program will encourage more people to get involved with CU’s international student community.

Graduate student Amin Hariri, from Iran, said he is planning to get involved with CU programs that will connect him with other international students as well as some American students and locals.

“It is weird to be away from home,” Hariri said.

Hariri is hoping a few weeks of making friends will make him feel more at home in Boulder.

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