International Students Satisified with CSU Experience

The results are in, and international students are very happy with their experience here at CSU.

The survey produced by the International Student Barometer (ISB) measured international student satisfaction at 180 universities — 21 of which are in the US. This year CSU ranked #2 nationally, an improvement from their #3 ranking in 2012. This survey reflects the success of the Office of International Programs (OIP) at CSU.

“Our mission is to provide quality programs for international students and scholars,” said Mark Hallett, senior director of international student and scholar services.

The OIP oversees the immigration process of more than 3,000 members of CSU’s international community. The majority are working on undergraduate and graduate degrees — more than 1,400 students — but the office also assists researchers, assistant professors, ESL students and dependents with immigration paperwork and admission, according to Hallett.

“We try to help students understand their immigration benefits to make the most out of their stay,” Hallett said.

Visa advice was one of the categories CSU ranked highly in — with 92 percent of surveyed students saying it was satisfactory or better.

Most undergraduates spend their entire academic career at CSU, but some participate in partnerships with universities in their home countries earning dual degrees from both schools, according to Hallett.

“It’s basically what these universities have set up to try to create western standards in their top universities,” Hallett said of these partner programs.

Shan Li, Yue Pan and Yaouei Zong are all participating in a dual degree program. They spent two years at Anhui Agricultural University in Hefei, China and arrived at CSU last fall to complete their degree program in the US.

“I came to experience two different cultures and two different education (styles),” said Pan, a landscape architecture major.

They happily agree with the satisfactory ratings CSU received from the ISB survey.

“We all like it here,” Li said.

Addy Elliot, Li’s advisor in the soil and crop science department, believes these programs help student’s broaden their horizons and encourage global connections.

“They’ll gain global perspectives of how different cultures interact and problem solve and communicate and maybe just the flavor of the US,” Elliot said.

Advising international students can be particularly tricky because of barriers caused by language and past education. Sometimes advisors do not have adequate time to help international students succeed in their first semesters at CSU, according to Elliot.

“Something that I think is challenging (is that) we don’t really connect until the very beginning of the fall semester. I feel like the first semester is a bit of a panic,” Elliot said.

Typically education is structured much differently in other countries than in the US — students arrive at CSU with a strong background in mathematics and science, but they often struggle with language and abstract thought. Advisors must consider this when helping their students navigate the All University Core Curriculum (AUCC).

“They have to take several of the qualitative classes — the ones that are really language rich,” Elliot said

Elliot connects her students with individuals and classes that will fit well with their field of study as well as broaden their way of thinking — classes that go beyond simply learning facts.

“It’s important to find classes that will serve them well in an international sense“ Elliot said of trying to create a hands-on educational experience for her students.

The language barrier has lead Elliot to test alternative advising techniques including group sessions that allow students to help each other understand what is being said.

“It’s really important for advisors to connect these students with each other right off the bat and try out group advising,” Elliot said of helping students help each other.

Li has friends from home who study at universities in Kansas and California. She sees little difference in the academic experience between CSU and other universities but notices differences in the community.

“I think the biggest difference is they are in cities with bigger populations (than Fort Collins,” Li said of the access her friends have to malls and cultural neighborhoods. Few international students have cars and spend most of their time in Fort Collins due to a lack of transportation, according to Zong. In the ISB survey, 34% of surveyed students ranked transportation as unsatisfactory or worse.

While they might like to explore the state and country more thoroughly, Li, Pan and Zong enjoy the Fort Collins community and all that it has to offer. The three participate in activities put on by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) such as the Mid-Autumn Festival that took place last Saturday.

“They plan a lot of activities that gravitate towards (the) Chinese culture,” Pan said.

Pan has also met several community members through her church who happily open their homes to international students for dinners, holidays and family outings. Zong agreed, saying he spent Christmas with a Fort Collins family.

“They are all very nice,” Zong said.

Hallett attributes much of the student’s satisfaction with CSU to the openness of the Fort Collin’s community.

“That kind of kindness goes a long way for our students,” Hallett said.

Once they graduate, Li, Pan and Zong all plan to apply for jobs or graduate programs in both the US and China but hope to extend their stay in the US in order to gain more international experience.

“I have only been here two years, so I want to be here longer to (give it) a try,” Zong said.

News writer Isabella Heepke can be reached at news@collegian.com