/ The Daily Reflector
By Katherine Ayers
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Although international students studying on North Carolina campuses increased 9 percent last academic year, neither East Carolina University nor Pitt Community College followed that trend, numbers showed.
Figures from the Institute of International Education on Monday showed international student enrollment at more than 15,000 across the state.
At ECU, foreign students with all visa types fell from 299 in fall 2012 to 249 in 2013. Those with F1 visas, reserved only for students, fell from 69 to 39 for undergraduates and 90 to 71 for graduates.
James Gehlhar, associate vice chancellor for International Affairs at ECU, said a number of reasons could have contributed to the drop.
“We sometimes have students that don’t get visas, the government can be unpredictable,” he said. “Historically speaking, 9-11 was a problem because the government was suspicious of anyone with a vaguely non-Anglo Saxon name. It’s mostly mitigated now, but it goes in waves.”
Being a mid-size university, ECU does not have money for international student academic or need-based scholarships, Gehlhar said.
“At the undergraduate level, the only scholarships available are for athletics and the music school has one or two (performance-based) ones that occasionally international students will win,” Gehlhar said. “We admit a number of freshmen and every year get a message at the end (of the process) saying ‘sorry, we’re going elsewhere because we got a scholarship.’”
For those who do choose to come, Gehlhar said the university has programs geared toward making them feel included. First Friends is a peer mentor program that pairs foreign students with Americans to help the new students adjust to life on campus. The Language Exchange program pairs up American and international students interested in gaining proficiency in a new language.
International students are not the only ones to gain something out of an exchange.
“The goal of this university is to prepare students for the 21st century,” Gehlhar said. “We want to prepare students to be comfortable in the world.”
Gehlhar said students never know when they might end up working with or supervising an international employee.
“Those who have interactions with international students tend to be less fearful of situations when they’re suddenly faced with working with someone from another country,” he said.
Contrasted to ECU international students, whose passports usually are marked with a “Duration of Studies” stamp, those at PCC come to the county first for a job or with family and generally are older when they attend the college. PCC has 175 international students, down from 200 in fall 2012, 20 of the students are on F1 visas.
Jessica Jaimes, director of PCC Global, said the college’s numbers may be low because it does not have the ability to recruit overseas.
“It’s all word of mouth,” she said. “Community college is a foreign concept in other countries.”
Since PCC has no dorms on campus, students live in the surrounding community. Jaimes said the college can help students find housing and that the college is working on an international student-specific orientation.
As with ECU, Jaimes said having foreign students on campus creates a more diverse environment.
“Everything is interconnected,” she said. “We want to offer more diversity and be known as an internationally focused college.”
This year, PCC is hosting Pamela Aichele and Giselle Dubinsky, two Argentinian students at the college as part of the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant program. Aichele and Dubinsky take classes and work with Pitt students both in and outside of class.
Dubinsky, from Buenos Aires, said this is her first time in America.
“There’s less public transportation here, but it’s much more green,” she said. “It’s also quieter and I can relax more.”
She also was amazed at the amount of information available in America.
“You can learn all you want in the libraries,” Dubinsky said. “Everything is at your disposal.”
PCC celebrated its International Education this week. ECU’s celebration is next week and will feature art exhibits, international food, a film and a lecture by Indian activist Winona LaDuke.
Contact Katherine Ayers at firstname.lastname@example.org and 252-329-9567. Follow her on Twitter @KatieAyersGDR.
via The Daily Reflector.