International Student Program expands its borders

Brianna Glase, Online Chief

Four years ago, current senior Iris Kim made the journey from her home country of South Korea to study at JC. Unlike the average JC freshman, though, her nervous first day of school feelings were amplified by the fact that she had a hard time speaking the language of her classmates. “I felt isolated. I felt like I wasn’t part of the community. I was different,” she said.

Despite this, after four years of living in America, Kim feels like the experience has been beneficial. “We don’t have any after school activities in Korea, and I like that in America, especially the Music Department.”

In addition, Kim had first come here to primarily “improve my English and learn new cultures,” and now she says that “I’m still struggling and learning new things, but I’m definitely getting more used to it.”

Four years after Kim started at JC when there were only a handful of international students, the International Student Program has grown to allow 41 international students like Kim to attend JC. Similar to Kim, they still receive the same kind of culture shock on their first day of school.

“Everything is brand new for me, especially the culture and the education system is quite different. I have to get used to it,” sophomore Kevin Yin said, a new student this year from China.

Currently, the international students make up a little over 5% of the student body, according to Coordinator of International Student Programs Sandi Seiler. Students come from Canada, Cameroon, Nigeria, South Korea, China, Italy, Spain, and Germany.

There are many reasons why the international students brave the culture shock of attending American school, stemming from their plans for the future. “I came because I want to go to a university here,” sophomore Claire Niu said. This is Niu’s first year attending JC, coming from her home country of China.

By coming to the U.S. earlier, the students are able to experience what the culture here is like and become accustomed to American schooling. For the students, it’s easier to get into an American university if they are already attending school in America. With this, though, come challenges that must be overcome. “It’s a little hard because my first language is not English,” Niu said. “Some classes I do not like very much, like English class.”

In addition, there are financial burdens that come with studying abroad in America for an extended period of time. According to the Director of Enrollment Kim Brueggemann, in addition to tuition international students have to pay for “housing stipends, the cost of food,” and various fees associated with the legal documents needed to study in a foreign country.

“It’s a huge investment,” Seiler said. According to Brueggemann, there are specific prices that are not public knowledge.

“Due to differences between the liaison companies, prices differ depending on the situation of the individual students,” Brueggemann said.

Even so, students have still found reasons to like America. “It’s better than in China. In America we don’t have too much homework. We have time to do whatever we want, after school ends early. In China, school ends at 4:45 p.m. We have nine subjects,” junior Sunny Lu said. “I have more freedom in America. I am happy to study in America.”

Not only can the students benefit from studying abroad at JC, but the entire school community can benefit as well, according to Seiler and Brueggemann.

Statistically, having five percent international student enrollment helps numbers stay at target highs, which for Brueggemann would be 200 students in the incoming freshman class.

“We want to keep the school a certain size. There are so many students around the world who want to come here and it certainly helps with our numbers,” Seiler said.

Without these 41 international students, enrollment “would be lower, however our domestic applications are above where they were this time last year,” Director of Admissions Kim Brueggemann said. Currently, application numbers as a whole are up 26 percent from last year. In Nov. 2011, 61 applications had been submitted, and this year at the end of November 84 applications had been submitted.

According to Associate Director of Admissions Eddie Maynard, December applications are also “on pace with last year’s.”

According to Seiler, by having these students, JC stands out among many other schools in the area. “We just think [having international students] is great for our entire program because it makes us unique in terms of marketing John Carroll,” she said.

Seiler also hopes to expand the diversity of students at JC. “What I would really like to personally do is make our International Student Program more diverse. Right now, just the number of Chinese people that there are in the world has driven why they make up such a large part of our international student population.”

Seiler hopes to reach out to other countries and even continents. “I’m really hoping that we will have students from each continent. I would love to have students from Latin America or even the Middle East, not that we want to have 50 percent international students or anything,” she said.

However, this ideal percentage has not been discussed by the administration. Currently, it is still early in the application process for both domestic and international students, and “the target number [of international students] has not yet been defined,” according to Brueggemann.

In addition to gains in enrollment, Seiler believes that having international students will be academically beneficial to JC. “Academically, we really attract top qualified students. [Having these students] will eventually impact SAT scores. I can see our average SAT score going up in the future. They are extremely determined,” Seiler said.

Another reason for the influx of international students has to do with the fulfillment of JC’s mission statement, according to Brueggemann. “When you have educating the whole person as our mission statement says, we want to prepare students to serve responsibly in shaping a more just and compassionate global society,” she said.

“We believe that having international students is directly in line with our mission statement. By having the students here, I think that the American students can experience first-hand international cultures. It also stretches you in terms of tolerance,” Seiler said.

Domestic students also find that having international students can be beneficial to them. Freshman Eric Wright has enjoyed the interactions with international students in the orchestra. “The foreign exchange students are the only good players,” Wright said. In addition to this, he thinks “honestly, it’s actually quite fun to learn about their experiences and where they come from.”

After having international students in her classes for all four years, senior Autumn Blevins has also enjoyed the diversity of the high school. “I think it’s really cool to have such diversity in our school, I like listening to them talk, even if I can’t understand what they are saying. The different languages sound so pretty,” Blevins said.

In the future, Seiler hopes to have more, better relationships between domestic and international students. “I have been listening to other schools [that] have requirements for their domestic kids to have to spend a certain amount of time with one of the international kids, going to the movies or to a concert or something, just encouraging them to meet,” she said. “We want to find ways to better celebrate the diverse cultures among us.”

Brianna Glase is the Online Chief for The Patriot and