By Randall Waszynski and Christopher Leelum
The number of international students studying at SUNY universities has increased 65 percent since 2004, according to SUNY data.
Of the 23,000 foreign students enrolled at SUNY schools as of Fall 2014, about half attend either Stony Brook University or University at Buffalo. Last academic year, SBU accounted for 20.6 percent of SUNY’s foreign student population, while Buffalo had 28.7 percent, according to enrollment data from both schools.
International students are very important to schools and the whole SUNY system, said Kate Friedrich, International Admissions Advisor for SUNY College at Plattsburgh.
“Foreign students help make the whole world personal to Plattsburgh,” Friedrich said. “Whenever there are world events, chances are they can relate to some group of students. This helps to make the campus a global experience.”
International student enrollment reached a record high in the 2013/14 school year, topping 886,000, according to the Institute of International Education, a private not-for-profit organization dedicated to the international exchange. Nationwide and SUNY-wide, students coming from China and India are the first and second groups in incoming numbers.
One aspect of international exchange is making sure students assimilate seamlessly into U.S. culture. At Stony Brook, the International Student Organization, which began as an extension of Stony Brook’s International Student Ambassadors, is geared to providing a common ground for international students and domestic students to exchange their culture.
ISO President Patricia Wu Jin said the group organizes New York City trips to experience urban American culture, English Pal programs to help cross language barriers, and even International Game Night. Jin also said membership began with a humble nine members in 2011 but has been growing ever since.
One international student studying at Stony Brook who found assimilation easy is freshman Economics major Xiaoshan Zeng. After first coming to the U.S. from China with a Summer camp at age 13, Zeng decided she wanted to study at a New York university that excelled in math and physics. Integrating into U.S. culture, Zeng said it was due to one key aspect.
“Respect was the most important part,” she said. “I respected U.S. students first, and they respected me. It’s a lot friendlier here too. China is very high pressure, especially in academics.”
Komaljeet Kaur, a sophomore Accounting major at SUNY Old Westbury, originally travelled from India to Pittsburg State University. But after one year she decided to transfer to Old Westbury in January.
“People in New York are not so interested in other people’s lives,” Kaur said. “I didn’t like that at all. Everyone is in a rush here, too.” Kaur said she was satisfied with the speed of the enrollment process and the ease of assimilating into U.S. culture, though.
Kaur said she hopes to get a steady job after school and one day return to India.
“I like this country, but I feel more a part of my country than this one.”
Envisage International, an international education marketing group, has been tracking the growing number of international students in the U.S. as it edges closer to a million. They expect a total of approximately 950,000 this academic year, which would be the largest percentage increase from the previous year since the 1978/79.