U enrollment of international students up 12 percent

by Kelly Pearson

When Siobhan McCarthy arrived at the University one month ago, the vast array of buildings, services and students overwhelmed her.
Moving from England only about 10 days before classes started, McCarthy felt isolated and turned to the International Student and Scholar Services for guidance. This fall she and nearly 1,000 other new international students went through orientation to learn about cultural differences between their countries and the United States.
According to ISSS, enrollment for new international students, representing 106 countries, increased 12 percent from last year.
This is the largest number of international students to arrive in a fall term at the University’s Twin Cities campus, said ISSS director Kay Thomas.
“This speaks well for the University of Minnesota as a place which provides a high quality education known throughout the world,” she said.
China has the most representation of the new students with 185 as of Sept. 11. India is second with 138 students and South Korea has 108 students.
As one of the many new international students, McCarthy chose the University because she “liked the idea of having a campus in a big city,” after coming from England’s Lancaster University, a rural college with 17,000 undergraduate students.
McCarthy, a junior, will study at the University for one year to fulfill a requirement for her American studies degree.
She said she enjoys the academic courses and unique teaching style. The University’s classes, she said, are taught much differently than in England.
“Here you have to participate and discuss. In England we have lectures and seminars, but they’re relatively informal,” she said. “(The American teaching style) is good because it helps you understand things better.”
McCarthy is also learning to better understand American lifestyles.
There are general cultural differences between England and the U.S., she said, such as food and an older legal drinking age. She also gets frustrated that “people often don’t understand the way I speak.”
ISSS tries to prepare students for cultural differences like these. There are several programs to help students like McCarthy adjust and make new friends.
The International Friendship Group Program, offered to University international students, was created to ease their transitional period. The groups meet occasionally and have student group leaders to ask for information or assistance. Currently more than 200 students and 23 student mentors are participating in the program.
ISSS also sponsors a Small World Coffee Hour and orientation events to familiarize and accommodate the needs of many new international students.
In addition to ISSS programs, international students can participate in the same groups and organizations as other University students.
McCarthy joined Kappa Alpha Theta sorority and has found it made the campus size seem more manageable and promoted activities beyond academics.
She said she feels the ISSS orientation was both beneficial and important.
“It’s a necessary experience,” she says, “because otherwise you wouldn’t know who to talk to about things, how to register, where to get buses from and how to go about getting a job.”
Thomas said ISSS is always available to assist and welcome international students coming to the University.
“International students are a valued resource to this institution and to the community,” she said. “(They) clearly enhance the perspectives of the students who are fortunate to have them as classmates.”

Kelly Pearson welcomes comments at [email protected].