My student affairs journey is both well-trodden and somewhat unique. Like many, I learned about the profession haphazardly as a student leader. After graduation, I needed a break before continuing graduate education. What followed was a road less traveled by many business management students – I moved to Taiwan and taught English.
Taiwan was literally a whole new world for me. I was placed at Concordia Middle School near Chai Yi city and was immediately embraced by an incredibly warm and welcoming community of teachers and students. When Chinese New Year approached, I was not invited, but rather told that I would be celebrating the New Year with the family of my new friend and faculty desk-mate. Numerous invitations from other faculty soon followed. It was easy to see that would have been unacceptable to spend this holiday alone.
In November the Institute of International Education (2018) and the Bureau and Cultural Affairs in the State Department released the 2018 Open Doors Report. A summary of this report is found here. The Open Doors Report offers interesting insights and details a historic level of international students in the United States (1,094,792 internationals, a growth of 1.5% from 2017). This report also details a 6.6% decrease in new international student enrollment, with the overall increase resulting primarily from a substantial increase in participation in the Optional Practical Training (OPT), a program that permits extended stays for international students to practice their skills after completing their degrees. Though international students bring the world to our campuses, The Open Doors report also provides data of U.S. students studying abroad, indicating a 2.3% increase in 2016-2017.
Though increased participation in global education is heartening, presence does not imply participation. Zhao, Kuh, and Carini’s (2005) study of international and American students reported that study participants’ perceived a diminishing level of support for international students when their enrollments rose. The authors conclude that “a campus cannot simply recruit a critical mass of international students; it must also intentionally arrange its resources so that international students and American students benefit in desired ways from one another’s presence” (Zhao et al., 2005, p. 225).
As I write this blog post, my refrigerator is reeling from the workout and effects of Thanksgiving. In my attempts to model the welcome I received from my adopted family in Taiwan, I extend invitations to those left behind on campus. The result was a table in Vermillion, South Dakota, full of food, laughter, and stories from individuals from Jordan, Taiwan, India, and Macedonia. The evening was phenomenal, but it made me wonder how our campuses might offer a sustained and genuine welcome to international students and focused events (such as International Student / Education Week).
What role can we play to ensure international students are welcomed and engaged in our campus communities? This is certainly a question to grapple with on our respective campuses. While committees might be formed and the issue analyzed, imagine if we each merely extended an invitation to meeting in our offices, the campus coffee shop, or around our tables at home. As a recipient of such hospitality, I can think of no better way to start. Let’s truly open our doors.
Institute for International Education. (2018, November 13). Number of international students in the
United States reaches new high of 1.09 million [Press release]. Retrieved from https://www.iie.org/Why-IIE/Announcements/2018/11/2018-11-13-Number-of-International-Students-Reaches-New-High
Zhao, C. M., Kuh, G. D., & Carini, R. M. (2005). A comparison of international student and American
student engagement in effective educational practices. The Journal of Higher Education, 76(2), 209-231.