International Students Being Made to Feel at Home in U.S.

Emmanuel Abu, a native of Nigeria, is a rising sophomore majoring in public health. He participated in the international bridge service partnership at Marshall University. (Photo courtesy of Marshall University)
Emmanuel Abu, a native of Nigeria, is a rising sophomore majoring in public health. He participated in the international bridge service partnership at
Marshall University. (Photo courtesy of Marshall University)

When Emmanuel Abu arrived in Huntington, West Virginia, from his native Nigeria to begin college at Marshall University last fall, everything seemed to have been planned out to ensure a smooth matriculation.

A representative from the college picked him up at the airport. Like other international students, Abu’s orientation lasted several days. He received an extensive tour of the campus that made him feel comfortable and intimately familiarized him with it.

Through a special program for international students, Abu received comprehensive support that helped him to successfully acclimate to an American college classroom.

“It helped me in all ramifications,” says Abu, a rising sophomore majoring in public health. “It helped me settle down as a student. It helped me adapt to the American way of living. It also helped me blend in academically.”

Such comprehensive programs, typically partnerships between universities and private for-profit companies, are increasingly commonplace. Most of the partnerships are holistic, designed to enhance the success of international students by ensuring their academic, housing, assorted student services and other miscellaneous needs are met adequately.

For decades, U.S. colleges and universities have invested heavily in recruiting international students. Now the next step is focusing on retention.

At least 15 institutions have forged partnerships with private for-profit companies that provide bridge services to foreign students. Besides Marshall, other universities include Colorado State, the University of South Florida and Drew University. Some of the for-profit players include companies like INTO University Partnerships and Navitas, two firms that have been doing the same kind of work in English-speaking countries like the United Kingdom and Australia for years.

The trend is driven in part by the steady growth of international students at American universities. A record 800,000 international students now attend college in the United States, according to a 2013 Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education. According to the data, 5 percent of U.S. institutions educate 69 percent of international students. As the demand for U.S. degrees rises in countries like China and India, and as the pool of college-bound high school students continues to shrink, more colleges are working harder to entice international students and to ensure that they are successful academically.

Benefits of partnerships

Mary Jane Miller, chief operating officer of INTO University Partnerships, North America, which has partnerships with six universities in the United States, says partnerships with organizations like INTO help universities be strategic in their approach to diversifying their campuses and integrating international students into the university culture. Most importantly, she says, they help students academically so they can be successful in the classroom.

James Fuller, a spokesman for Navitas, which has partnerships with five U.S. universities, including Western Kentucky University, the University of New Hampshire and the University of Massachusetts Boston, says these trends are driven by a stronger desire to internationalize U.S. campuses.

Fuller adds there is also a greater recognition that, in a globalized world, U.S. students benefit from interacting more with international students.

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Source: Diverse Education | Lekan Oguntoyinbo

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