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University offers support to increase number of international students

Matthew Brown
During the half-time of the Kent State men’s basketball game against Central Michigan University, Kent State international students took to the court with flags of their home nations on Jan. 31, 2023.

For the 2023-2024 school year, the university welcomed the highest international student population prior to 2018.

This year 2,089 international students from countries such as India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia have chosen to study at the university, said Jef Davis, associate director for International Student and Scholar Services.

“We went through some declines… since the pandemic started as did most other institutions and then we started seeing a rebounding,” Davis said. 

While 740 of those students are first-year students, a majority of those 2,089 students are graduate students, Davis said.

Among the reasons international students choose to study at the university is because the global scholarship for undergraduates aids in international students being able to pay their tuition, which is considered out-of-state tuition, Davis said.

“[The global scholarship] is merit based so it helps attract not just more students but strong students which is what any university wants among its graduates,” he said.

A majority of international students come from India as it became one of the top countries international students came from five years ago, Davis said. 

“Over three quarters of our new students this fall came from India,” he said.

Although a majority of students came from India, the university received students from over 100 different countries, Davis said.

“Once you get past the top 12 [countries], you get into countries with a dozen students,” he said. “Then very quickly in the other 50 countries you get one, two students from each country, the great diversity.”

However, the university experienced an increase in international students from other countries such as Brazil and Nigeria, Davis said.

The increased number of the over 200 students from Brazil is a result of the university’s American Academy, which is a partnership the university has in Brazil, Davis said.

“For the first two years, [students] are enrolled in both universities and they take Kent State courses taught by Kent State faculty,” Davis said. “Then [they] come to Kent to finish that degree.”

Davis said there are plans to attempt to replicate the American Academy in other places. 

Besides the American Academy, other factors like the university’s requirement initiatives and offices in countries such as China, India and Vietnam have been able to recruit more students, Davis said.

Once students arrive at the university, the Office of International Student Affairs offers programs like conversation partners, which consists of an international student and a domestic student being paired to have conversations with each other every week, said Ashton Leigh, director of the Office of International Student Affairs.

“They get to build friendships together, broaden their mindset and all sorts of amazing things come out of that program,” Leigh said.

The programs offered are meant to ensure international students receive the proper support they need, Leigh said.

“Once they’re here, I think it’s really important that our office helps them transition into the campus,” Leigh said. “Make sure they feel like they are a part of Kent State and that they’re not just in their own bubble as international students.”

These communal programs and events like International Homecoming Celebration have also experienced an increased number of student attendance. The program conversation partners experienced an increase of 80 people for the 2023-2024 school year, Leigh said.

“[For International Homecoming] last year we had about 400 people and this year we had about 500 so it did increase pretty significantly,” Leigh said. 

For attending these programs and events, Leigh said international students told them how they are excited to share their experiences at the university with their friends and family.

“I’ve had conversations with students that are regulars at events of ours and then they’ve told students, like their friends back in their home countries, about the fun stuff they’ve done here,” Leigh said.

Overall, the support from faculty, staff and other students factored into the increase of international students, Davis said.

“Our faculty, our staff and our U.S. students are very welcoming to international students,” Davis said. “The word of mouth, you know, you have a great experience and you tell your friend.”

From these positive interactions, a number of international students are eager to share their experiences at the university, Davis said.

“It’s such a thrill when I talk to an international student, who’s leaving the university at the end of their studies, and they just gush about the great experiences they had here,” Davis said.

The presence of international students is not only beneficial to the university but also to the other students, Davis said.

“It’s an opportunity to get to know how someone from another part of the world sees the world,” Davis said. “It really provides an opportunity for us to have an international education right here in Kent, Ohio, but we have to be willing to reach out to those international students.”

Adriana Gasiewski is a staff reporter. Contact her at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Adriana Gasiewski, Staff Reporter
Adriana is a sophomore majoring in journalism with minors in Italian and creative writing. Before becoming a staff reporter, she was a general assignment reporter last semester. She enjoys writing about current events and issues that Kent students face. Adriana is a second-year member of Her Campus, where she serves as Philanthropy and Community Events Coordinator, and she is a member of the editorial team. Contact her at [email protected].
Matthew Brown, Photo Editor
Matthew is a junior photography major. He has a passion for photography and traveling. Contact him at [email protected].

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