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Helping Hands for International Students

The international student services at U.S. universities serve as the go-to place for all the help international students might need.

American universities and colleges have seen a considerable rise in international student enrollment in the past decade. This is true for various types of postsecondary institutions, including Ivy League schools, large public universities, as well as small liberal arts colleges. Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, for example, has seen an increase of 46 percent in international student enrollment in the past decade. International students now make up 21 percent of the university’s overall enrollment.

Each year, the largest groups of international students in the United States come from China, India, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. The other relatively smaller groups come from Canada, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan and Vietnam.

One can, however, find representatives from a majority of countries at U.S. higher educational institutions. In the 2016-17 academic year at Yale, international student enrollment has been the largest in the university’s history, with a total of 2,635 students from 117 countries. Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, which ranked fourth in international student enrollment among U.S. public universities for the 2015-16 academic year, currently has 9,303 registered international students, representing 127 nations.

International students contribute to the ongoing globalization of U.S. universities by bringing their culture, customs and perspectives to the educational centers. They also help keep the U.S. university tuition economy going, as a lot of them pay for their own education. In turn, international students gain valuable knowledge and experience, and get access to some of the world’s best research centers, scientific labs and the highest standards of education.

Student services at Purdue
International student services at U.S. universities welcome international students and help them adjust to the new environment through a variety of programs. They are the go-to places for any issues with travel, visas, taxes and immigration queries, and even help with housing and health care.

Purdue University hosts 9,303 international students, among whom 1,898 hail from India. Munir Sayegh, Purdue’s international admissions counselor, names some of the programs international student services provides its incoming batches.

“We have the Weeks of Welcome events at the beginning of the year which help students,” he says. He also mentions an important program offered by Purdue called International Friendship Program, which “matches students with families in the community.” Because of the large population of international students, the university has formed the Center for Intercultural Learning, Mentorship, Assessment and Research (CILMAR) under the Office of International Programs. “CILMAR’s ambassadors help students with adjustment,” says Sayegh.


Student services at Yale
When new international students arrive at the Yale campus, the Office of International Student Services (OISS) welcomes them with receptions, information sessions and various other types of events.

Ann Kuhlman, director of OISS at Yale, explains, “OISS welcomes each new international student personally, in small group meetings organized by schools. Run by OISS staff and student orientation assistants, these meetings focus on immigration, travel, taxes and safety resources. They also offer an opportunity for new students to meet one another and talk with each other, and the orientation team, about the transition to life in the U.S. These meetings serve as a launch pad for orientation meetings held by schools and departments and are supplemented with evening and weekend social and other events in New Haven.”

Programs and events for the international community include English language support groups, communication groups for other languages like Chinese and Japanese, as well as various arts and crafts events, tours and excursions. In addition, there is support for family members, including children, of international students.

“One of our most popular events is our series called ‘Understanding America,’ where we strive to introduce international students and scholars to interesting, and often lesser-known, facts about life at Yale and in New Haven,” says Kuhlman. Over the years, guest speakers in this series have helped explore Yale’s relationship to New Haven, U.S. presidential elections, 18th-century New England and even casinos in the United States. “There are so many programs that have proven to be fun. These include walking tours of New Haven, stopping at nearly all the ice cream shops, and a trip to the PEZ [candy] factory or [American] Football 101,” she says. In addition, the many activities organized by International Spouses and Partners at Yale are always fun and informational, and help build a community feeling among the accompanying spouses and families.

Engaging international students at UMass Amherst
The University of Massachusetts Amherst engages in international exchange, study and collaboration. In fall 2017, 2,400 international students will be enrolled at the university. Its Office of International Students and Scholars (ISS) provides advice regarding U.S. immigration matters to international students.

“Our office is also committed to ensuring our entire international community feels welcome, engaged and part of the larger UMass and Amherst, Massachusetts, community,” says Ken Reade, director of ISS, in a statement on the university website. “Our office continuously advocates for our international population, and we also actively partner with several campus units to provide meaningful and enjoyable programming throughout the academic year.”

U.S. universities strive to find ways to integrate international community into their philosophy and overall agenda. Nowadays, the inclusion of international students testifies to a university’s dedication to diversity, integration and globalization.

Professor Sangeeta Kamat of the Department of Educational Policy, Research and Administration says, since 2012, when Indian American Professor Kumble R. Subbaswamy was hired as UMass Amherst’s new chancellor, diversity has become a top priority of the university. Chancellor Subbaswamy, she says, “works to create a positive atmosphere on campus” by introducing different “progress initiatives and various interventions to include international students, minorities and people of color.”


Natasa Milas is a freelance writer based in New York City.