The number of international students enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has increased 10 percent in the past two years and administrators say they’re expanding programs to keep up with the growth.
“We have more students to serve, so we’re trying to meet their needs,” said Pat McBride, associate dean of the Office of Admissions, “along with the fact that we are always wanting to improve our services.”
The number of international students enrolled at UNL increased by 316 students to 3,475 from fall 2011 to fall 2012, according to UNL Institutional Research & Planning. The number of undergraduate international students enrolled during the same time period grew nearly 18 percent, from 1,642 students to 1,936.
McBride said the growth of the international student body on UNL’s campus has signaled the need for more specialized classes catered to those students’ needs.
He said UNL offers a psychology class that teaches international students the differences between higher education systems in various countries and the cultural expectations of those countries.
“We’ve increased our programming for these students by offering more sections of the class,” said McBride, who said the university used to offer only one section of the psychology class, but now offers four sections. “We’ve also had to move (the class) to a bigger lecture hall from the rooms in the union that it previously met in.”
Amber Hunter, director of admissions, said the increasing number of international students at UNL is partly because of increased recruitment efforts by the admissions office.
“To meet the chancellor’s enrollment goals, the Office of Admissions has reenergized and reorganized its efforts to recruit academically talented Nebraska, out-of-state and international students,” she said.
Hunter said UNL has increased its presence in China, India, Brazil, Vietnam and other countries to help recruit more students.
She also said the university participates in programs such as Science without Borders, where international students from Brazil come to UNL to study science-related fields. These types of programs increase UNL’s international reputation and enrollment, Hunter said.
Neo Shi, a senior business administration major, came to UNL from China in August 2011 as a transfer student. He said UNL offers several programs and classes to help international students transition to life here, but he doesn’t think they are all completely necessary.
“We have to take an English class our first semester here,” Shi said. “Those English classes are not that helpful, though. They teach you basic things that we sometimes already know.”
Shi said he mainly decided to come to UNL because the college he was attending in China at the time had a partnership program with the university. He said he came to the United States with a group of about 20 other students from his previous college.
Chinese students make up the majority of the international student body at UNL with about 36 percent of the students. India brings in the second-largest amount of international students with about 9 percent, or 325 students, while students from South Korea make up the third-largest international student population with almost 8 percent, or 276 students.
Fang Xie, an animal science graduate student, said she thinks UNL needs to work harder at helping students from all different countries adapt to the cultural barriers of living in a new country.
“There are a bunch of (international students) who might act badly, and it makes Americans think we are all like this,” said Xie, who came to the United States from China in 2008. “UNL should have more cultural instruction to tell international students what is right and what’s wrong.”
Shi agreed, saying he wished there were more opportunities for international students to interact with American students.
“I wish there were more writing classes and times for international students to communicate with American students,” Shi said. “We need more practice with cultural things.”
Shi also said having more cultural programs would encourage international students to break out of their usual comfort zones.
“Chinese students all sit together in class,” Shi said. “And when they leave class, they still speak Chinese instead of English. UNL gives one class for international students, but it’s not that much.”