Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Evaluating the Struggles with International Students and Local Community Participation

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Evaluating the Struggles with International Students and Local Community Participation

Article excerpt

The United States (U.S.) issued almost a half million student visas in 2011 and 400,000 the year before (United States Department of State, 2012). According to the U.S. Department of State (2012), the number of international student visas sought and issued is expected to steadily increase in the upcoming years. Based on observed trends over the last several decades, along with projected increases in students seeking educational opportunities abroad, academics have been analyzing international students' experiences in host countries (Bystydzienski & Resnik, 1994; Gebhard, 2012; Ghosh & Wang, 2003) and acknowledging specific issues such as perceived discrimination, loss of social status, loneliness and academic performance (McNamara & Harris 1997; Rawlings & Sue, 2013; Sarkodie-Mensah, 1998). According to McFadden, Maash-Fladung, & Mallett (2012), universities in the United States are strategically recruiting students to their campuses for further income generation and to raise their institutions' international profile. McFadden et al. (2012,) noted, "Universities and colleges strive to create an environment on their campuses that is reflective of today's society and the world. [...] Populating our campuses with international students will encourage both international and domestic students to develop intercultural proficiency" (p. 158).

What is missing from the existing studies is a discussion concerning the relationship between international students and the local communities in which they reside while attending American institutions. International students are often limited by their own cultures and are sometimes confused with the American culture presented to them upon arrival (Ee, 2013). According to Ee (2013), the cultural shock experienced by international students in the USA has resulted in a noticeable separation and distancing from the main campus and community populations - sometimes further fueled by micro aggressions by the host population against the language and race of international students. A separation from the local community leads to international students generally gathering with students from similar cultural backgrounds and treating the outside world as unsupportive or even dangerous to their cultural values and lifestyles. International students tend to create temporary, small relational communities to survive their tenure at an American university, and they do not always participate in community activities outside of the campus because they find comfort through familiarity with people from their culture and background. The isolation of international students should be concerning because one of the motivating factors to study abroad is to immerse oneself in the culture of the host country. Conversely, their lack of wider community involvement makes them absent from the cumulative definition of the community outside the campus. What results, is not only a separation among the 'locals' and the 'internationals,' but also a lack of cultural exchange, which would be beneficial for both international students and the host community (Ahamad & Szpara, 2003; Callaway, 2010; Ee, 2013; Hodge, 2002; Sabry & Bruna, 2007).

This pilot study looked at a public university located in a small college town in Ohio as a case-study to explore the relationships international students have with the local community that hosts the university.

International Student Mobility and Community

Among host countries around the world, the United States is the number one destination for international students (Kretovics, 2011). Hazen and Alberts (2006) suggest that foreign students are attracted to the United States because of the quality of education, opportunities to study/conduct research in their fields of particular interest, employability, and the funding opportunities available to them (especially at the graduate level). The Association of International Educators estimates that foreign students and their dependents contributed approximately $20. …

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