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UWRF exceeds goal for international enrollment

September 19, 2013

This year UW-River Falls has exceeded the campus goal of having 147 international students enrolled by the fall semester of 2017.

With 19 countries represented on campus, 150 international students are enrolled for the current fall semester, the highest number the University has ever seen. From Brazil, China, Taiwan, Germany and Canada, the diversity is a real benefit to campus.

Blake Fry, assistant to the chancellor, said, “I think it’s a real benefit to both our international students and our domestic students. You’re not only learning about different perspectives and backgrounds of other people different than yourself, but it can also be a lot of fun. Having tangible experience, when entering a global economy after graduation, from working on projects with people from other countries will help set you apart from other people in society or the company you work for by the simple fact that you had the opportunity to do so. It adds a whole new educational level and experience.”

When these students apply, it’s not academics that are of priority like it is for most students who attend the University. Students have to test out of an exam to be proficient enough in the English language to attend UWRF.

There are all sorts of visas and clearances international students have to attain, and go through, from their country or government. The process is more administrative than academic.

International Student Services Coordinator Shelby King said, “From my experience, new international students face many of the same challenges as first year American students – missing home, making friends, finding their place on campus, time management, making positive choices, etc. That being said, international students have some additional challenges that are unique to their situation with regard to culture – adjusting to the food,    weather, language and so on.”

International Student Services has an orientation program that starts one week before domestic students arrive on campus. The program lasts five full days, and helps these new students acclimate to life in the U.S and the University.

Each month these students meet to talk about the specific topic for the month, be it academics, culture shock or health and wellness. King said they do their best to navigate those challenges.

There are some international students who stay in the residence halls on campus, while others stay with host families in the area. These students are able to take advantage of all the university has to offer from the classes, organizations, intramurals and on-campus jobs.
Fifty of the students are from Brazil. They are part of a scholarship fund, the Scientific Mobility Program, to study subjects such as science, engineering and math. The scholarship funds undergraduate students for a year of overseas study. Twenty-two students from Hangzhou, China, are studying elementary education.

Not all international students at the University are here for a degree program. Some students come because they have friends or relatives who said it was a great experience and encouraged them to come.

Students who are working on their elementary education majors are part of a program from Zhejiang International Studies University in China. The program has been around for a long time and was part of the Experience China program.

Both universities have been close partners with one another for a long time, and have proven what can be accomplished, and gained, for both the student and the universities.
Seokyeong An, an international student two years ago from South Korea, said, “It is one of my best lifelong experiences. It actually takes a lot of effort to be friends with a foreigner in a totally different environment. However, what I learned at River Falls is not only language skills, but also how to make friends and survive abroad. I recommend studying abroad to all my friends.”

“Having international students who are able to come study on the River Falls campus and have their own experiences of what Americans are like, helps portray America in a more accurate way when these students go back home and talk about their time here,” Fry said.
For more information on studying abroad you can visit Global Connections in 120 Hagestad Hall.