February 23, 2014

Diploma retrieval proves difficult for international graduates

By Ginny Washbish–

Graduation day at the University of Louisville does not guarantee you a break from the stresses associated with gaining your undergraduate diploma. If you happen to be an international student, you may be boarding your flight back home without a diploma in hand. A Panamanian student, who graduated in May 2012, recently reached out to the Cardinal to share her story.

“When applying for our diploma, (the registrar’s office) told us they wouldn’t give it to us right away in the commencement ceremony, that they would send it to us approximately six to eight weeks after commencement,” said Laura Diaz. Filling out the application with her Panamanian address, Diaz was fully aware of the delay and expected a maximum wait of three months.

“In September 2012, I still hadn’t gotten my diploma,” said Diaz. However, after writing to the registrar’s office and requesting the diploma to be shipped to her courier address in Florida, the shipment came through shortly after.

Problems occurred when Diaz learned that when applying for a position or wishing to continue on with a master program outside her country, the diploma must have the correct apostille.

“I hadn’t heard of that in my life and no college counselor or international center advisor told me that,” she explained. “So, I lost my time trying to get my diploma to Panama, because it had to go through another process before getting here.”

The diploma had to be shipped back to Frankfort, Kentucky to be correctly notarized and valid for Diaz. This was a slow course as several Panamanian students were asking for the same process. Once all diplomas were notarized, they were sent in bulk to Panama’s Quality Leadership University.

“QLU told me to go pick it up in Jan. 2014. So basically I waited a year and eight months to get a useful diploma,” said Diaz.

Sharolyn Pepper, associate director of the office of international student and scholar services, explained that this was an isolated event. “In the 37 years I have been with U of L, a situation like this has never occurred,” said Pepper. Pepper explained that many international students participate in Optional Practical Training after graduation, where students remain in the states and have time to resolve any issues that may occur during the shipping process.

“The international center advises students in a memo to contact the registrar office in order to receive their diploma before they leave,” explained Pepper. This memo is one way the international center hopes to assist in the process by ensuring international students receive their diploma in a timely manner and with correct apostilles.

Pepper reassures international students that she will assist in any way possible when diplomas need to be validated. However, once the diploma is shipped to the Department of Education in Frankfort to be notarized, the International Center no longer has any control of the issue.

“(The International Center) email directors with the Panama University to make sure they too are advising their students properly,” said Pepper.

Photo by Kade Tambo / The Louisville Cardinal

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