This fall, NC State welcomed 1,300 new international students to its ranks, about 150 of those being new undergraduate students. While a majority of international students are enrolled in graduate programs, a growing number of undergraduate students from around the world are enrolled in degree programs on campus. Currently, international students make up about 4% of the undergraduate population. Although that sounds like a small percentage, the population has tripled over the past three years.
NC State has long been supportive of improving the overall college experience for students by encouraging diversity and enhancing the internationalization of campus, an effort which won the university the prestigious Simon Award in 2014. The effort of recruiting and supporting international undergraduate students is no small task, and is a team effort across multiple offices on campus including Undergraduate Admissions and the Office of International Services.
At the beginning of the international student experience is Jeong Powell, who is the Director of International Admissions in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at NC State. For Powell, limits on time and financial resources necessitates working strategically, both in terms of what countries NC State recruits from and how those students are recruited.
“Because we have limited resources, both on the end of admissions and scholarships, it makes sense to look at countries strategically,” says Powell. This involves looking at countries, such as China, India and Korea that are the top exporting countries of international students to the United States and countries in the Middle East that offer generous scholarships to their students. This population has both financial means and motivation to succeed. For these and other countries, Powell often leverages relationships with foreign scholarship sponsors and embassies to create opportunities for and recruit competitive international students who are fully funded. Undergraduate Admissions also developed partnerships with competitive foreign high schools that serve as pipelines for high caliber international students.
The benefits that international students are able to bring are in large part supported by the Office of International Services (OIS), a unit of OIA. Although its primary responsibility is immigration counseling and government reporting, OIS is charged with preparing accepted international students for the experience of attending NC State and living in the US.
In May or April, international students are sent a pre-arrival guide with information to help them know what to expect. Through what is called the Culture to Culture Ambassador Program (CCAP), these students are also connected to two current NC State ‘ambassadors,’ one domestic and one international student, to whom they can direct questions and concerns. Ambassadors provide crucial support to new international students, many of whom are away from home for the first time in a brand new culture.
Once international students arrive, OIS provides orientation for new students. For students who are accustomed to very different academic expectations, the information they receive is crucial: “One of the things we’ve been emphasizing over the last few years is some of the cultural differences within the academic environment. Things as simple as having to do homework outside of class time is a brand new concept to some students depending on what country they’re coming from,” says Stacy Telligman, an advisor for OIS. “There’s just a lot of differences in the academic culture.”
In addition to managing cultural exchange programs, including Breaking Bread, Culture Corps and ISSERV, OIS also provides training and workshops for academic departments and particularly for faculty who may serve as advisors for these students, helping to make them aware of the special situation of international students.
Although the small team of staff who recruit and support international students must manage the challenges of many students and few resources, they see the many benefits these students bring:
International students help contribute to the overall diversity of campus, and enjoy the benefits of a first-class education while enhancing the college experience for domestic students. For domestic students who are unable to study abroad, international students provide a valuable resource for learning about the world, exposing students to different perspectives and approaches that can have lasting benefits.
The presence of international students “enriches the experience for everyone,” says Powell. “For me it’s win-win.”