International students finding their place on ONU's campus
Photo and article used with permission from The Lima News and Beth L. Jokinen
Four years ago, Richard Ewane traveled from the Republic of Cameroon to Ohio Northern University. He joined six international students on campus.
“I had never been out of Africa before, so it was a huge culture shock for me,” said Ewane, who is among 130 students representing 18 countries on campus this year.
ONU’s international student population nearly doubled this year. A recent study by the Institute of International Education shows growth around the country.
International students in the U.S. increased by 8 percent in the 2008-09 school year, marking the third year of significant growth. First time enrollees increased by 16 percent. Undergraduates increased 11 percent.
ONU’s growth is not without effort. Deanna Shine, director of international admissions, travels to recruit students. She went to Japan, China and Korea last spring, and back to China and Korea and to Ghana last summer.
“We’re traveling a lot more, getting our name out around the world, talking to school counselors and working with embassies,” she said, adding that it can take multiple visits to a country to establish the school’s name.
ONU offers more scholarships to students and has an English language International Scholar Transition Program. Sophomore Kandai Doi, of Japan, met Shine during a college fair while attending high school in Switzerland. Shine has more knowledge of international students than most, he said.
“ONU takes good care of their international students,” the biology, pre-veterinarian major said.
Preliminary reports show that 50 percent of campuses are continuing to see an increase this school year. Twenty-four percent reported declines, and 26 reported staying consistent with the previous year.
The University of Findlay has a 40-plus year history of attracting international students. Five hundred are there this year, a drop from 860 last year. A national decline of students from India largely accounts for the drop, said Dave Emsweller, vice president for student services.
“Students from India liked to come over, get a VISA and stay here to work,” he said. “When it appeared our economy was not producing as many jobs, the U.S. was not as interesting of a destination.”
School officials are still pleased with the numbers. More than 20 countries are represented. Officials actively recruit, including doing some traveling.
International students remain steady at Bluffton University. Twenty are on campus this year, most from Africa. The reason, admissions director Chris Jebsen said, is connections with the countries, some through the Mennonite church.
The school doesn’t travel to recruit, but officials are looking at strategies to reach out to other countries. Jebsen recently attended a meeting with private colleges to talk about collaborating to attract international students to Ohio.
“We also feel like there is untapped potential of international students already in the U.S.,” he said.
Athletics brought international students to the University of Northwestern Ohio, said Deb Badertscher, director of new student services. Of the seven, one is playing basketball and three play tennis.
The college of technologies is attractive, she said, because there aren’t similar programs in many countries.
“A student from Pakistan worked at a Toyota dealership there and had different kinds of certifications but wanted to come here to round out his education and make it better,” Badertscher said.
Why the U.S.
Ewane had an uncle living in the U.S. planning to move to Ohio. Ewane Googled universities in Ohio and found ONU. The international business major knew early on he would study abroad.
“Since I was 10, it has been my ambition to grow up and leave the country,” he said. “There are not many opportunities at home. Most, if they can, do travel abroad, just so they can have more opportunities.”
Ewane will stay in the U.S., saying going back home would defeat his purpose for coming here.
Saad Fallatah, a third year ONU pharmacy student, plans to return to Saudi Arabia after getting a couple years of work experience here. Enrolled in a general pharmacy program in his home country, Fallatah’s professors urged him to go abroad where his study would be more clinically based than what is offered in Saudi Arabia.
“When I really started looking in pharmacy, the U.S. is really way ahead of other countries,” he said, adding that ONU’s program is reputable and well known. “When I go back I can teach people there and try to improve the program back home.”
Linxi Du, of China, went through an agency that helps students find schools. It’s how the international theater production student learned about ONU. She considered going to Australia, but thought there were too many Chinese students there.
“I felt like I needed to learn English,” she said. “I felt like the U.S. had a better education system.”
The students notice the increased number of international students. Ewane is no longer the only African student. The students form a strong bond, Doi said.
Schools want to bring international students to campus to add diversity, officials said. It is a plus for all students.
“You want to try to have a campus that is representative of the world,” Emsweller said. “There is so much they can learn from each other. And so many ways they can prepare to go out and be part of the global community.”
It’s important for students, regardless of where they come from, to understand each other, Shine said. There is much an international student adds to the classroom.
“A student from Ghana might talk about issues from their country in their pharmacy department that traditional students may not have talked about,” she said.
The national report showed an 8.5 percent increase in the number of Americans studying abroad. Eighty-five percent of Bluffton students travel as part of the required cross-cultural experience. About half of those go abroad, Jebsen said. That is attractive to international students.
“They see that there is a focus here not only on welcoming international students,” he said. “But we have a strong sense of the importance of being connected to a global community.”