Number of UI international students to rise

BY MEGAN DIAL | MAY 13, 2009 7:30 AM

An increasing number of international students are seeking out the coveted “gold standard” U.S. degree, UI officials say.

The UI has received double the number of international-student applications compared with last year, said Scott King, the director of the Office of International Students and Scholars. University administrators won’t know the official number of international students until people enroll.

UI Provost Wallace Loh also said the numbers will increase substantially next year.

“It will contribute immensely to the internationalization of the campus,” Loh said. “The UI is becoming a university without borders.”

King said most students come from China and India, but officials hope more South Koreans will also study at the UI.

He said it is important for the UI to maintain a certain level of diversity, so officials are actively promoting and recruiting international students.

“Part of your education is being exposed to new thoughts … and trying to get everybody to expand beyond borders,” King said.

He said students study at the UI to develop global expertise and hone their language skills.
“It’s hard to gain fluency in a language unless they’ve lived it,” King said.

Loh said undergraduate international students represent many different majors at the UI, but graduate students are often in the technical fields of science and engineering. “[Graduate students] know exactly what they want,” he said. “They are coming to top-notch departments for their training,”

The overall reputation of the UI, both the educational benefits and vibrant student life, are what attract most students to the campus, Loh said.

With the number of new students next year, he said, around 10 percent of the UI’s population will be international students.

“We are clearly on an upward trajectory in terms of attracting students,” he said.

Jingying Zhai, 20, left her home in China to study at the UI for her undergraduate career.

She said after studying at a high school in Davenport, she wanted to come back to the area to continue her education.

“It’s pretty nice, compared to college in China,” she said. “You get much more advanced technology. There are more activities going on.”

But she said campus social life isn’t always easy to get involved in.

“Most people — where I’m from — they’re from all over the country,” Zhai said. “People here, they already know their friends. It’s hard to meet new people.”

The math and actuarial science major said after completing her bachelor’s degree at the UI, she wants to attend graduate school somewhere else in America.

King said though the number of international students is growing, the UI has room to improve in terms of diversity.

“We are still probably going to end up a little lower percentage-wise than our peer institutions,” he said. “Hopefully, it will improve. This is a good place for students.”

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