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January 23, 2008 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2008-01-23

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of Southern California at Los Angeles,
Columbia University, New York Uni-
versity, University of Illinois at Urbana-
Champaign and Purdue University for
international students in attendance.
The report said the top five foreign
countries the University of Michigan
draws its international student popu-
lation from are China, India, South
Korea, Taiwan and Canada, respective-
ly. LSA sees the highest enrollment of
undergraduates from other countries,
followed by the College of Engineering
and the Ross School of Business. The
post-graduate engineering 'program
sees the highest number of internation-
al graduate students.
International Center Director John
Greisberger said most universities inthe
country want to attract international
students;,because having students from
all over the world is an indicator that
the university's academic programs
are strong enough to attract them. A
diverse student body also helps attract
the best faculty members as well, he
said. But most importantly, more inter-
national students means more places
worldwide where the university's name
is wellknown, somethingthatanyinsti-
tution conscious of its prestige wants to
But while the University benefits
from increased attention abroad, there
are no official programs for recruiting
in other countries. Instead, students
work to encourage others from their
countries to apply to the University.
Hsien-Chang Lin, president of the
Michigan Taiwanese Student Asso-
ciation, said his group does its own
recruitingby holding workshops during
the spring in Taiwanese high schools to
introduce aspects of American culture
and answer questions from prospective
While American students often
look to studying abroad to experience
another culture, international students
are drawn to the University of Michi-
gan for academic reasons.
Lin said he decided to study in the
United States because a Ph.D. earned
here is highly respected around the
world.Now in his third year of the Pub-
lic Health doctoral program, he said
the main challenge he faced coming
to the United States was the language
barrier. It's difficult to meet professors'
expectations while struggling to dis-
cern what they're saying.
Engineering junior Sustrisno Kurni-
awan said he followed his older brother
to the University of Michigan from
Indonesia after his brother had raved
about the experience. Kurniawan went
to high school in Singapore, which he
said had a much more rigid program
of study than he's encountered at the
University. He said he likes being able
to take as many credits as they think
they can handle and not being forced
to graduate within a specific amount of
In Singapore, students are expected
to finish undergrad curriculums in two
years and aren't able to decide between
different times for classes, Kurniawan
But across every field of study, the
one issue that consistently emerges in
the classroom is difficulty understand-
ing exchanges during class discussions.
Students' rambling questions and com-
ments often confuse even the professor,

but many international students said
one poorly introduced discussion point
can leave them grasping to catch up
with the direction of the lecture for the
rest of class.
Lin said when he doesn't understand
something a professor or classmate says
during class he'doesn't want to hold up
the discussion by asking for clarifica-
tion. When it comes to exams, Lin said
he's afraid his professors will hold him
to higher expectations than other stu-
dents if he asks for extra time or clari-
fication for story problems and essay
The University of Michigan's Inter-
national Center offers English lan-
guage workshops that teach how to
navigate daily situations like attending
professors' office hours or doing job
interviews, but the program do little
to prepare international students to
understand the fast speech and regional
slang of a classmate'from Long Island,
Lin said.
Rackham student Liang Zhang, who
came from China to pursue a Ph.D. in
electrical engineering, said the Inter-
national Center's programs have helped
him adjust, but that he's benefited more
from the individual help from his doc-
toral advisor Engineering Prof. Semyon
The center's workshops range from
filing taxes to how to gain a green card
by marrying an American citizen. More
social events put on by the shelter are
meant to acclimate students to campus
life, Greisberger said.,
Uozumi said she laughed when she
saw an e-mail in her inbox advertising a
coffee hour at the center to discuss the
"do's and don't's" American dating.
"They really think that you are clue-
less," she said.
But Uozumi said there were some
customs she needed to have explained
when she first came to Ann Arbor.
She had no idea what do the first
time someone held up a palm and asked
where she was from - in a confused
fluster she tried to use her elbow. "I
was like what the hell are you talking
about," she said.
Uozumi said she went to one work-
shop in the fall that explained the
American tradition of Thanksgiving
that included traditional food and a
synopsis of the history behind the holi-

Football is another concept that
presents a mystery to many.
Zhang said he attended a workshop
explaining the rules of football, which
he needed to learn so he could under-
stand football Saturdays since the game
isn't played in China. As president of
the Chinese Students and Scholars
Association, Zhang now organizes par-
ties where members of the group can
watch games.
Even something as commonplace in
America as going to the movie theater
can offer unexpected challenges. Aysu
Berk, a Rackham student from Turkey,
said she wasn't sure whether you were
supposed to buy popcorn before or after
seeing the movie until she picked up on
the custom by watching moviegoers
around her.
Where the International Center fails
to provide a complete or applicable
introduction to aspects of American
college life, student cultural groups
reach out to international students of
their nationality to fill in the gaps.
The Michigan Taiwanese Student
Association attempts to ease the home-
sickness that many international stu-
dents feel by holding social functions
like skate nights, Lin said. The group
also provides a pick-up service from the
airport and helps students from Taiwan
find an apartment or house to lease.
Zhang and Uozumi both said inter-
national students tend to stick with
their peers from the same nationality.
The Chinese Students and Scholars
Association is hoping to do more to net-
work with other international groups,
Zhang said.
"Sometimes we're kind of isolated
from the international communities,"
he said.
Having an Asian and Latino back-
ground, Uozumi said she fell out of
both groups and ended up being a part
of a mixed crowd of European interna-
tional students.
"There's camaraderie among inter-
national students," she said.
Uozumi said it's easy for her to dis-
tinguish international students from
American students.
"I suppose it's sort of like interna-
tional patriotism," she said. "It's like
your family from outside your coun-
Some students find that sense of com-
munity comforting, allowing them to

(Far left)LSA sophomore
Erina Uozumi holds a fan
from her native Japan.
(Left) Uozumi keeps a
flag signed by her friends
from El Salvador, where
she attended high school.
focus more on their academic pursuits
without'having to get used to an over-
whelming amount of new customs.
Rackham student Sirarat Sarntivijai
found that community by joining the
Thai Student Association. Sarntivijai
came from Bangkok to pursue her Ph.D.
in bioinformatics after receiving a full
scholarship to attend the University
of Michigan. She said that when she
started researchingoschools she applied
here because of the bioinformatics pro-
gram's reputation. But, she still didn't
know anyone in Ann Arbor.
Before leaving Bangkok, she contact-
ed the Thai Student Association. Three
years later, Sarntivijai is the group's
president. That Sarntivijai's involve-
ment with the group soon became the
defining aspect of her social life isn't
uncommon for students in her situa-
It's uncommon for a Thai student not
to join the group, Sarntivijai said.
But while the availability of an
immediate social network benefits
international students who are unfa-
miliar with American social settings, it
can be stifling for students who want to
have a broader college experience and
meet a diverse group of friends.
Berk had a similar experience to
Sarntivijai's, having contacted the
Turkish Student Association before
leavingfor the United States andbecom-
ing the group's president this year, but
she questions whether cultural student
groups' might encourage international
students to stick with what they know
atthe detriment ofgaining a fuller cam-
pus experience.
"I'm not sure if it's the right thing,"
Berk said.
But she said it's difficult to come to
the University alone and try to meet
people while dealing with academic
Other student groups, organized
by Americans, try to bridge the divide
between international student commu-
nities and American students.
Engineering senior Patrick Wong,
president of the Southeast Asian Net-
student groups are about 95 percent
international students who tend to
interact solely with each other. South-
east Asian Network is an umbrella

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