International students grow

Going away to college is a huge adjustment. Leaving a bed you have know for 18 years, the familiar neighborhood you grew up in, and having your family right down the hall are all things that change the minute you move into your dorm room. New surroundings and people around every corner can be overwhelming and even painful for some.

Imagine not only adjusting to a new environment, but a new culture which may include a foreign language, new behaviors, unusual foods and people who look nothing like you. This is what more than 1,000 international students at St. John’s experience.

The number of international students at St. John’s has reached its highest population of enrollment in 2008, with 1,236 students from more than 102 foreign countries in attendance.

More than half of the population hails from countries such as India, China, Trinidad and Tobago, South Korea and Bulgaria. According to the Office of Institutional Research’s Fact Book, the current freshman class has students from 44 countries, the majority here from China and South Korea.

In order for the University to gain popular demand all over the world, various programs exist to enhance the opportunity. St. John’s has four international recruiters, with a fairly recent program based in regions such as Rome, Italy, Cairo, Egypt and the states. Heavy recruiting is currently taking place in the Middle East and Asia.

“We take students in terms of they’re coming here for a whole program of study and we also welcome students for short term exposure for the U.S. education,” said Singee Lam, senior associate director of International Admissions.

In addition, the University works with agents who set themselves up to campaign on behalf of the students. There are also companies that organize tours, fairs and high school visits for further awareness.According to Clare J. Lloyd Jones, international recruiter from the Office of Admissions, there is a new program called Eye of The Storm.

Once students apply and are admitted, they gain access to a social networking site, similar to Facebook. There, they can blog, set up a profile with the opportunity to speak to student ambassadors and even administrators. Topics range from places to eat on campus to even favorite pizza toppings.

But the reason why students from across the world choose to attend St. John’s is based on personal preference. Location and academic rigor can also be a key element as a choosing factor.

“America has the most advanced education system in the world,” said Jiwei Peng, a junior from China. Sometimes the competition can’t compete with a deal hard to resist. Zalika Timothy, a junior, came from Trinidad to America to attend St. Johns three years ago.

“St. John’s gave me the best scholarship,” said Timothy. “That was a big consideration for me because the year I was trying to go away, that’s the year our university [University of the West Indies] was free to all students.”

The University is not shy from staying true with its Vincentian mission, as reflected in its core values.

“The scholarship piece is so valuable to helping us recruit international students because we can provide them with some kind of financial resource,” said Jones.

“The scholarships we offer international students, depending on their grades and SATS, is a full academic scholarship and half housing. Very few universities offer that level of scholarship to international students.”

Today, Timothy enjoys balancing her time with a handful of organizations she’s involved with that have helped her to meet new people, all the while remaining confident in her chosen path towards success. Or take it from Peng, who made sure to buy the latest Lebron James sneakers from his favorite American NBA team, the Cavalliers.

From being engulfed in the American culture, the benefit of a decision to become a part of a global university is a trip worth taking. Although the busy lifestyle that many international students acquire and have to adapt to can be a complete transformation from where they call home, the opportunity for that cultural dialogue and experience is priceless.