Foreign Students Find Their Niche Boston University Leads US Colleges in Hosting a Lively Blend of Different Cultures

Article excerpt

MIHO Nakya laughs when she says that many American students in her Boston University (BU) classes talk like machine guns. "In Japan, silence is a sign of respect for the teacher," she says. "Questions are seen as interruptions."

Welcome to garrulous BU, the leader among American universities for encouraging a lively blend of cultural differences in and out of classrooms. Some 4,700 international students are now enrolled at BU -- the highest number at any college or university in the country, according to a report from the Institute for International Education.

"International students have been an essential component of BU for decades," says Donald Ross, director of the international students and scholars office at BU, where total university enrollment is about 28,000.

Second to BU is the University of Southern California, with about 4,200 international students. The University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Texas at Austin are next, with foreign enrollments of around 4,000 each.

What continues to draw foreign students to the United States, Mr. Ross says, is the undiminished reputation of US higher education, particularly in business and science. Add the lure of experiencing Western culture firsthand and a cosmopolitan, urban campus like BU, with a proven interest in foreign students, and it is not a hard sell to qualified students.

"The magic lure of the US is still there among foreign students," Ross says, "and because English is the lingua franca of the world, people want to come to the US to study."

Unlike any other American university, BU aggressively recruits students through recruitment offices in eight regions: Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Spain, and Britain. BU undergraduate admissions representatives also tour the world seeking students.

Other major universities, avoiding the costs of offices in foreign lands, regularly send recruiters abroad. Or they use an informal alumni network in countries for recruitment.

"Most of the foreign students that come to BU," says Ross, "are from personal referrals, from alumni who had a good experience here and make recommendations to sons and daughters of friends." Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and India send the most students to BU. "More Asian students are coming now because business is doing well there now," he says.

These undergraduate sons and daughters are usually from wealthy families. Tuition at BU is $19,000, and room and board is $7,000. Add travel costs, living expenses, clothing, etc., and total costs for a year can be $30,000 and above. Only four undergraduate foreign students receive financial aid, but 600 graduate students have financial support.

In compliance with US immigration policy, BU and other universities require documentation from students that they have the resources to complete a year. …