Hello!  I am Maria Almendares and I am the Office Associate in the International Students & Scholars office at the University of Wyoming.  I have the pleasure of working with all of the international students at UW and getting to know so many of them personally.  My first interaction with students is during the paperwork process before they even arrive in Laramie.  I often get to exchange emails with incoming students and answer questions about Laramie and UW.  I grew up in Laramie, so I think I have a good perspective of what Laramie has to offer to students.  I am also a UW graduate so I can speak to the merits of UW and the wonderful staff and faculty that we have.  I really enjoy communicating about Laramie with students because it is very different from most places that our students come from and I like to help students be prepared for what they will experience when they get here. 

Laramie is a nice town located in the Rocky Mountains and the surrounding areas have SO much to offer to students.  I think that students coming from Asian countries may not have had the opportunity to experience the mountains and many may not have spent much time outside of their city.  Our students get to experience nature and beauty everyday here!  We are surrounded by beautiful mountains that offer opportunities for climbing, hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, fishing, animal watching, camping, and just being able to enjoy the outdoors.  Within the community itself, we generally feel safe and the campus is comfortable and provides a relaxed and unique place to learn. 

There are many cultural activities on campus so that students can experience theater, music, and dance from many parts of the US and the world.  UW also has collegiate level sports programs that engage students to spend social time with other students and possibly even learning about activities that might be new to them such as American Football.  When students return to campus at the beginning of the fall semester, Laramie seems to come alive a bit more and there is a buzz about town.  Activities increase and there is always something to do!   

Having attended UW and graduated from the College of Agriculture with a cross-departmental degree, I can truthfully say that we have some amazing faculty and staff on our campus!  I had the pleasure of working with so many great professors and instructors.  The ratio of students to professors is fairly low, so students receive more attention in their classes and have more opportunity to get to know their instructors.  UW also employs some of the top researchers in their field so we have excellent opportunities for students to get to work with and learn from these professionals.  I am always impressed with the friendships that professors create with their students and the amount of concern that they have for the success of their students.

On a personal note, I feel very lucky to get to meet so many people from so many countries!  Paperwork and immigration compliance is only one part of our job of the International Students and Scholars (ISS) Office.  I have worked at ISS for seven years and have had the pleasure of meeting some wonderful students and wonderful people.  I’m always proud that our international students have such wonderful grades and we see so many students succeed in the classroom. 

We take great pride in the accomplishments of our students both in the classroom and in their individual lives and enjoy celebrating their joys and successes.  I like to say that our office is like a “home away from home” for international students.  When student arrive on campus they inherit surrogate moms, sisters, aunts, or cousins – depending upon age of course! J I really enjoy when students come to my office to talk about their problems so that we can help them think them through and hopefully solve them, or when a student brings their family or friends by just to say hello.  It is my hope that our international students feel comfortable talking to me about things just like they would their friends or family at home.  Being so far from home cannot be easy, especially for new students, and I hope that I can provide at least a little bit of comfort to make it easier for them.  In my time at ISS, I have seen students come to UW for very short amounts of time and then return to their countries to share their knowledge and experience. 

There are also those students who I have met as young 18 year old freshmen who grow and learn and eventually earn their Bachelor’s or even graduate degrees and move on to the next phases of their life.  Sometimes we are lucky enough to stay in contact with these students as they move on, and sometimes we may never see or communicate with them again.  Either way, I know that I learn from every student that I have contact with and I hope that the staff in our office is able to have a positive impact on their education and life here in Laramie too.  It always makes me very happy when graduates come back to UW to visit and make a point to come to ISS to visit with us, or when I receive an email from a student telling me about what they are now doing in their own life after UW.  We say this often in our office, but we truly do work with the best students on campus!  And as our international student enrollment increases, we get to continue to meet more and more great people who will go on and impact the world in ways sometimes unimaginable.  How lucky we are to get to share the time we have together at the University of Wyoming!