Global living-learning community is among new efforts to create a welcome environment for international students at Temple
For Alyssa Berger it was learning the differences between American and German culture. For Eva Cohn it was making the decision to study in China. These moments stand out for the roommates who came together this semester at Temple’s newest living and learning community (LLC), a wing of Temple Towers dedicated to international exchange.
“The Global LLC is a way for Temple to deepen its commitment to internationalization,” said Brooke Walker, assistant vice president in the Office of International Affairs (OIA). “A big part of this effort is recruiting and welcoming international students and scholars to Temple.”
The office has committed to doubling the number of international students coming to Temple, and this year that number has topped 2,000 for the first time — a 6 percent increase from last year. Currently, there are 2,000 international students and 396 scholars at Temple. Most of the students are from China (23 percent) followed by South Korea (13 percent) and India (11 percent).
Temple is not alone in experiencing an influx of students from around the globe. According to a new report from the Institute of International Education, the number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. increased 5 percent to 723,277 last year.
The Global LLC brings together 32 students, six to a suite, with each American student matched with an international student.
“The arrangement is helping us overcome the difficulty that exists at all universities in integrating international students into the student body,” said Michelle Brito-Barton, program coordinator in the Office of Education Abroad and Overseas Campuses, who co-teaches a course for the Global LLC students with Chiao-ning Su, a Ph.D. student in mass media and communications studies. “The international students come here wanting to experience American culture and make American friends. And while our American students may be interested in befriending international students, it’s difficult for it to happen organically. Through the LLC, we’re hoping to bridge this gap.”
In addition to establishing the Global LLC, the Office of International Affairs has taken other steps to make campus friendlier for international students and reduce barriers for international applicants. Orientation now provides more information on international study; a reception was held this fall to welcome international scholars; and the office arranges airport pickups for international students arriving in the U.S. Also, Temple’s International Educator’s Academy, now in its second year, is helping instructors and administrators internationalize their classes and programs.
Changes also have been made to streamline the application process for international students. For example, the OIA will now handle enrollment management for international students.
While the university has made great strides in a short amount of time, Hai-Lung Dai, senior vice provost for international affairs, wants to do more.
“It’s not good enough just to get international students to campus,” he said. “Once they get here, we really have to step into their shoes and think about what they need. The support of the entire Temple community is critical to the university’s success as a global campus.”
What Alyssa Berger, a junior international business major from Uhldingen-Muehlhofen in southern Germany was looking for in her semester abroad was a university in a big east coast city and the chance to experience American culture and make American friends. Choosing Temple and living on the Global LLC was the perfect decision for her.
“It is a great opportunity to learn about other cultures,” said Berger. “I really like the concept that every international student shares a room with an American student. You can make friends quickly and easily; otherwise it’s difficult to get in contact with the local people. I also get to know not only American culture but also others: Chinese, Taiwanese, British, Korean and French.”
Berger’s roommate, Eva Cohn, a freshman anthropology major from Annapolis, Md., learned about the LLC at orientation and decided to apply to live there.
“I figured I could always have the freshman dorm experience but that I might as well try and just go for it. I didn’t know it would be such a great living experience,” she said.
Cohn and Berger live in a suite with two Taiwanese students, a student from Lancaster, Pa., and a student from Philadelphia. Down the hall are students from Great Britain, China and France.
Together they take a class where they explore everything from living in a foreign country to cultural values. At night, they often gather in one of the suites to cook and eat together. And on weekends, they explore the city together.
Sometimes though, it’s the seemingly small occurances that can be the most meaningful.
“A few nights ago, I had to read an article about Taiwan for class and I ended up talking to a Taiwanese girl down the hall. She gave me the best background and history,” said Cohn. “I felt like it was just as valuable as the article.”
Berger, who returns to Germany after this semester, hopes to return to Temple for graduate study, while Cohn, thanks to her experiences on the LLC, has decided on China for study abroad in her junior year. She plans to include a visit to Taiwan now that she has made so many Taiwanese friends.