North Texas Daily

Number of international students grows

Number of international students grows

Number of international students grows
October 24
09:10 2013

Sebastien Perez / Contributing Writer

When Jidong Yao left China and came to Denton at age 19 five years ago, he was without his family, without his friends and without any knowledge of the English language.

Like many international students, Yao studied English at UNT’s Intensive English Language Institute. After a year, he passed the college entrance exam and began his undergraduate career at UNT.

Although Yao has enjoyed his time here and is grateful for the opportunity to study at UNT, he and many of the other 3,000 international students at the university have had a few problems adjusting.

“The bars here are old. You go to a bar over there, they are fancy,” Yao said. “Food is not the same for sure. There’s a lot better choices, and it tastes better over there.”

The biggest difficulties international students experience in their transition at UNT is the unfamiliar cuisine, said Yunju Langran, adviser for the International Welcome Center.

“The one thing that really brings people together is food,” Langran said.

To help international students adjust, the Welcome Center conducts many events and programs throughout the academic year involving meals. The “Global Grounds Café” is an event where students get a chance to gather and educate others about their country.

“By having all of these events and programs, we believe it helps in the retention of the students because if they’re here and they make friends, just like domestic students, you feel that connection,” Langran said.

UNT’s prime location in the Dallas-Fort Worth area makes it comforting to students coming from other big cities around the world, he said.

The university is also more affordable if international students are willing to put in the work. If international students qualify for a $1,000 scholarship, they can get a tuition waiver that allows them to pay in-state versus out-of-state tuition, Langran said.

From 2006 to 2012, the number of international students at UNT has grown by almost 1,000, from 2,086 to 3,020. China has been the most represented country at UNT since 2010, and the number of Chinese students grew from 85 students in 2006 to 338 students in 2012.

“In China, I wasn’t a good student and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to come here, for a fresh start,” Yao said.

Over the past decade, China has been sending an increasing number of students to get their bachelor’s degrees in Western countries and a few developed Asian countries, said Richard Nader, vice-provost for UNT International. China sends more students to the U.S. than any other country, Nader said.

“With a population of 1.6 billion people needing jobs in a more sophisticated economy and the desire to be a leader in the world, they are investing heavily in research and development, science and technology, and other fields that will give them an advantage,” Nader said.

Although UNT is behind the national average in Chinese students, it is also the only university in Texas that participates in the 1-2-1 program, he said.

The 1-2-1 program allows Chinese students to spend one year at a partnered university in China, then two years at an American university, and then finish their education back home. According to an article on www.insidehighered.com, the program allows Chinese students to receive two degrees – one from the school they attend in the U.S. and one in China.

Students from around the world learn about UNT from professors or relatives back home. UNT’s more popular programs, such as music, also attract international students, Langran said.

Communication and recruitment are what UNT International focuses on to try to increase the number of international students on campus, said Mary Beth Butler, director of communication for the program.

But those aren’t the only things that dictate the number of international students on campus.

“Geopolitical events give us challenges and triumphs just like they do for anyone,” Butler said. “Back in the ‘70s, we had very large numbers of students in Nigeria and Iran, and as political events change in those countries, we didn’t have as many students from those countries.”

As a student at UNT, Yao said he has made many friends and achieved much more than he ever thought he was capable of academically.

“This has become like my second home,” Yao said.

Radio, television and film senior Jidong Yao originally from Shanghai, served as president of the Chinese students and scholars association in his sophomore year. He led the organization to create a useful website that helps connect Chinese students in Denton. Feature photo courtesy of Student Alumni Association 

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