International student chases opportunity around globe

Student grew up as immigrant in Kuwait, moved to U.S. alone at 17; researches how to communicate with people who deny science

WSU+senior+Sherwin+Francies+was+born+in+India+but+spent+much+of+his+life+growing+up+in+Kuwait.

COURTESY OF SHERWIN FRANCIES

WSU senior Sherwin Francies was born in India but spent much of his life growing up in Kuwait.

TIMOTHY FAIRBANKS-CLOUSER, Evergreen news editor

Sherwin Francies never quite knows what to say when people ask him where he is from.

The international student was born in India but spent much of his life growing up in Kuwait. Francies, senior public relations major, said his English accent throws most people off as he explains his complex background.

Francies’ parents are from India but immigrated to Kuwait during the early years of his life. Due to Kuwait’s distaste for the nation’s sizable immigrant population, he had to attend a private English school, he said.

“It’s almost as if being an immigrant … never feels safe in Kuwait,” Francies said. “Anytime you go outside, you’re supposed to carry [identification], and if you don’t, they have the right to just arrest you and deport you.”

Attending a private English school led to Francies adopting an accent unlike the rest of his family, which made interactions interesting at times. Francies said he had the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom a few times, where he once planned to attend college.

Francies’ plans changed after he met a Green River College recruiter who was visiting Kuwait. He said the practicality of American education attracted him, and he soon moved to the U.S. alone at the age of 17.

The scorching Kuwait climate and lack of entertainment options in Francies’ area were significant factors in leaving the small Middle Eastern nation. He said his parents offered their support wherever he wanted to go.

“When you’re a brown kid with glasses in the middle of Kuwait,” Francies said, “there’s not a lot you can do except develop a personality and figure out what you want to do in life.”

A professor told Francies about the WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication while attending the Green River’s Running Start program. After visiting the WSU campus and other colleges, he decided on Pullman because of the opportunities the Murrow college had to offer.

Francies faced new challenges as an international student in the U.S., one of which being difficulty with traveling. Due to the pandemic and his visa status, Francies has not seen his family since December 2019, and he still does not know when he can return home.

“This is the longest I’ve been away from home,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I was closer.”

While in Pullman, Francies has partaken in many of Murrow’s opportunities. He worked with Cable 8 Productions, helped develop peers’ websites and is currently researching how to communicate with individuals who deny science with his mentor, Charlie Powell.

Powell, senior public information officer for WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, asked Francies personally to be one of his interns. He said Francies went above and beyond his expectations, bringing an excellent mind for critical thinking and a sense of resilience to the team.

“Our country and the world of communications needs Sherwin a lot more than he needs us,” Powell said.

Powell sent character reference letters to a few different entities, helping Francies extend his visa to finish his time at WSU. He said they developed a friendship throughout their time in class and working together.

Powell said Francies’ international experience from his complex background and world travels will serve him nicely while pursuing a career in public relations.

After graduation, Francies will continue working with Powell until their project is complete while also pursuing a professional career. Francies said he hopes to take all the experience he gained at WSU and apply it at a public relations agency.

 Francies’ visa only allows him to stay in the U.S. for a year after graduating. To extend his stay, he said he will have to find employment and have the paperwork approved to renew his visa, which is a struggle many graduating international students face.

Location is not as big of a factor as simply enjoying what he is doing in life, Francies said. Ideally, he would like to return to the Seattle area because of the familiarity but he is not limiting himself to any opportunities. He simply wants to agree with his employers’ values.

“He’s intelligent, he’s kind, he’s honest, he’s forthright and he is resilient,” Powell said. “That’s the key hallmarks of a person who is going to go far in this life.”