Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Examining the Educational Benefits of Interacting with International Students

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Examining the Educational Benefits of Interacting with International Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

Through the analysis of alumni survey data from three graduating cohorts, this study examined the influence of interaction with international students on domestic students' college outcomes and explored factors that helped to promote international interaction on college campuses. The findings indicate that in comparison to non-interactive domestic students, highly interactive domestic students reported significantly higher levels of development in a wide range of areas across the three cohorts. Also, the findings suggest that active engagement in college activities, such as coursework outside the major, contact with faculty outside class, ethnic or cultural clubs or organizations, and visiting speakers, was likely to promote interaction across cultures.

Keywords: international interaction; questioning beliefs; skill development; educational benefits; college activities; college outcomes.

Over the past half century, a growing number of international students have enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. According to the latest report by Farrugia, Chow and Bhandari (2012), the number of international students in the U.S. reached an all-time high of 764,495 in the 2011/12 academic year, reflecting a 31% increase over a decade ago. This steady increase is largely due to the active recruitment efforts by many U.S. academic institutions and the actions by the U.S. government to promote American higher education as well as a rising middle class in key source countries that could afford to send their children to study abroad (Fisher, 2009).

With the greater involvement of many countries in the global free trade economy and a new environment of budgetary cuts, the competition for talented and self-funded international students among nations has become intense and strategic in recent decades for two major reasons. First, international students provide a strong talent pool and make academic and cultural contributions to college campuses (Andrade, 2009; Choudaha & Chang, 2012; McCormack, 2007). Second, international students make a significant contribution to the economy of host countries (Farrugia, Chow, & Bhandari, 2012). In 2011/12, for instance, international students contributed over $22.7 billion to the U.S. economy through expenditures on tuition and living expenses.

Although many institutions world-wide aspire to maintain their financial health by aggressive recruitment of international students, it is claimed that the main purpose of most colleges and universities in recruiting international students is "to provide international and cross-cultural perspectives for their students and to enhance their curricula" (Altbach & Knight, 2007, p. 293). The significant impact of international students on the local, state, and national economy is apparent and has been quantified in indisputable monetary terms. Also, a sizable body of research highlights the challenges international students face while adapting themselves to the living and learning environments of the host country (e.g., Abe, Talbot, & Geelhoed, 1998; Lee, 2010; Trice, 2004; Ward, 2001). Despite these facts, few empirical studies have systematically examined the extent to which international students contribute to the intellectual and cultural environments on U.S. college campuses from the perspective of domestic students (Geelhoed, Abe, & Talbot, 2003).

This study seeks to provide empirical evidence for claims of potential outcomes and to equip institutions with useful information on how to develop programs to enhance students' collegiate experiences, by examining whether interaction with international students benefits U.S. students' college experiences and to identify factors that are likely to promote such interaction. Three research questions guide this study: (a) To what extent does international interaction influence U.S. students' questioning of beliefs and values about politics, religions, and the nature of human beings or society during the course of their undergraduate studies? …

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