How International Students are Shaping American Education at UWB

Written by: Connie K. Chen, Wayne Lin, Sinead Rafferty, Janhtria Sapearn, Tema Woods

The population of students on the University of Washington Bothell campus is diversifying every year as more and more international students apply to attend. International students at the UWB campus are participating in international programs and clubs such as International Club, Filipino American Student Association, Indian Student Association, Korean Student Association, Latinx Student Association and the Vietnamese Student Association and are bringing new enthusiasm with the start to the new year. While having traveled thousands of miles to receive higher education in the United States, international students have also felt the extra pressures of cultural struggle among the typical college student worries. 

International students contribute global perspectives in the classrooms and on campus, which promotes UW Bothell’s commitment to fostering a community of global learners. UW Bothell offers opportunities with quality advising to help plan academic courses and career mentoring, research opportunities, health and wellness programs and student organizations to aid in the challenging feat of studying away from family and culture.

A statement from Jennifer Kim, an International Advisor for the University of Washington Bothell, emphasized the reality many international students face while seeking higher education. 

“Studying internationally is very rewarding, but also challenging,” said Kim. “You are away from your culture, your family, your friends, your food, your language, your community – students have to adjust to everything at once and do well enough to be able to stay here and earn their degree” adding that “this is not an easy feat,” she said.

As stated on the University of Washington website, an international student is a non-resident alien on a non-immigrant visa which permits full time study in the United States. Funding international studies is a large challenge faced by many international students as the University of Washington does not offer any type of scholarship, grant or form of aid as a student must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident to receive federal financial aid. Federal regulations and University of Washington policy severely limit the types of financial assistance available to international students so many have to rely on their parents and home countries for financial assistance.

Even before students come to the United States, they must endure a rigorous process to be eligible to apply for United States higher education. According to the United States Government Services and Information official webpage, students must first meet English language proficiency exams and meet their high school and preferred college’s education requirements. 

From there, international students must research and apply for an American college, learn how they can finance their studies as tuition for international students ranges around 4 times more than a Washington resident, submit an application for immigration, and apply for their student visa. The University of Bothell reports that of the 2017 to 2018 student enrollment approximately ten percent were international students but many of the struggles they face before and after enrollment aren’t openly discussed. These struggles and the lack of open discussion can make adjusting independently from family and a new culture makes many scramble to feel a sense of belonging. 

Another major difficulty faced by international students that seems to go unnoticed is the lack of on-campus housing. 

“The university doesn’t have enough housing for regular students, but especially for first year international students” said international advisor Salah Kornas of the Center for International Education. This causes international students to resort to off-campus housing, which can be difficult with transportation and different expenses. 

The Center for International Students provides knowledge, steps and advising for international students to apply for college and next steps. The International Student Advisory Board provides a platform for international student representatives to discuss and advocate the programs, services and issues that our students may have at the University of Washington Bothell. 

International clubs and organizations like Vietnamese Student Association and Korean Student Association are just two of the international associations at the University of Washington Bothell that help mentor new international students through cultural challenges. Krystal Wan, a junior international student Media and communications major from the University of Washington Bothell, states the cultural difficulties they’ve encountered.

“The transportation here makes me confused and it takes me a long time to figure out how to go place by place because I don’t have a car when I first came to the Puget Sound. So I have to take the bus from home to school for more than an hour,” said Wan.

Coming from Hong Kong, Wan received help from her international friends on how to use Puget Sound public transportation when she first came to the United States four years ago because public transportation in Hong Kong is very different from Puget Sound public transportation.

Difficulties faced by international students are often brushed aside as they are not considered a majority in the number of enrolled students but data proves this could drastically change. 

“The Institute of International Education (IIE, 2014) notes that new international student enrollment increased at U.S institutions by 7.5% in 2013 from 2012, and is expected increase over the next two years” emphasizing that “the number of international students enrolled in U.S. higher education institutions for the 2013/2014 academic year was 886,052; that means enrollment increased by 8% over the prior years (IIE, 2014).”

International student enrollment is projected to increase immensely across all United States colleges in future years based on data from previous enrollment influxes. To provide greater support and understanding for the growing influx of international students have rallied for events that provide a dialogue with native students. 

Growing relationships with fellow international students provides a valid support system for those experiencing difficulty adjusting to a new culture and developing connections between international students and native students is essential to create mutual understanding and bring a light to struggles international students face on a daily basis.

“I really love working with students in general but especially with students from other countries- I feel like I learn something new every day from working with international students and the best part is helping them achieve their goals here at UWB” said Kim.

Understanding international student adjustment and development creates a diverse and collaborative campus that benefits all members of the University of Washington Bothell. As members of the University of Washington Bothell community strive for understanding through discourse with international students their struggles still remain unnoticed by many students. However, a change of perspective can improve understanding of the struggles international students face daily.

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