By Lilly Quiroz
During the academic year of 1972-73, there were 146,000 international students in the United States. Last year, there were 974,926, and Texas Tech University accounted for 2,131 of those international students.
Binari Witanapatirana, an admissions counselor for marketing at Texas Tech from Colombo, Sri Lanka, came to the U.S. for her undergraduate studies and stayed to earn her master’s degree in mass communications. In August, she presented her final project on how Texas Tech could improve recruiting overseas and learn what students are looking for in a university.
From her research, Witanapatirana said she thinks there are three reasons why international students come to study in the U.S. First, she said many cultures think it is prestigious to study in the U.S.
Larissa Campos, a part-time instructor and an applied linguistics master’s student from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, came to the U.S. to perfect her English and become more specialized in teaching a language.
“I have this belief that people see graduate and undergraduate schools in the United States as very well qualified and very well prepared,” Campos said.
Campos said Brazil has great universities, but sometimes it is difficult to get ahold of resources like books. She said American universities have more opportunities and resources like Wi-Fi, computers, air conditioning and easy accessibility to academic resources.
Witanapatirana said the second reason is a perceived idea that better job opportunities will ensue with an education overseas. She said an education in any other country besides your own suggests this.
Campos said a master’s degree from the U.S. is a great asset to show on a resume. She also said studying in a foreign country helps you adapt to any kind of situation, and that better prepares you to become a professional.
The final reason Witanapatirana’s research stated international students come to the U.S. is that although they are capable, they may not be accepted to a university in their country.
Witanapatirana said there are only four large, public universities in Sri Lanka, so it is difficult to get accepted. She said she would not have been able to attend college in Sri Lanka for cultural reasons.
“Education is built up to be this amazing thing because a lot of people don’t have access to education, especially as a woman in Southeast Asia,” Witanapatirana said.
Zhikun Liu, a graduate part-time instructor and doctoral student in personal financial planning from Shanxi, China, has been studying in the U.S. since 2009. He said he was a very good student in China, but he wanted a challenge where everything would be different.
“I feel like there’s a bottleneck,” Liu said. “You can’t go higher than that. But if you go to another country, then you open a new door, and you can learn all kind of things.”
Liu said he is a first-generation college student. He said his parents’ generation had very few college graduates because of the culture and lack of opportunity in China.
“That’s a very rare opportunity for you to have,” Liu said. “So if you have it, you want to make the best use of it.”
Liu said the pressure to do well in school started in elementary because his teacher told him not everyone would continue on to attend high school. Students had to score a higher grade than half of their classmates in an intensive college entrance exam in order to go to college, and there were not many colleges to choose from.
Liu said the work ethic among international students and American students is different because international students spend so much time and effort to come to the U.S.
“Usually [international students] don’t take it for granted,” Liu said. “That’s why they probably put more effort, and they value this degree or this study opportunity more, especially if you’re coming from a developing country.”
Liu said he notices a difference between his undergraduate students and what he was taught as an undergraduate student in China.
“Yeah, it’s called entitlement in the U.S.,” Liu said. “I certainly observe that from my students.”
Liu said he has had an issue with his students not attending class if it is not explicitly stated in the syllabus.
“And then I realized that you have to play their game,” Liu said. “In the long run, it’s actually hurting them, but they don’t think about that.”
However, Liu said his doctorate and master’s students are different. He said that they tolerate mistakes like changing the syllabus because he wants to teach a little more.
“And if they’re graduate students, they said, ‘OK, sure. I want to learn more,’” Liu said. “If they’re undergraduates: ‘No, no. I want to learn as least as possible.’”
Campos said her work ethic compared to her graduate peers is pretty similar. She said some people are a little less committed, but it is just their personalities. However, she said that undergraduate students’ work ethics are entirely different.
“We cannot even compare the graduate students with the undergrads,” Campos said. “They are so not ready for anything. They are kids.”
Campos said she does not believe they are prepared for college. Yet, Campos said she would find the situation overwhelming if she had had the same college experience as American students.
“I also see that they get more independent, but I think some—or many of them—are not prepared for it,” Campos said.
Campos said international students may have scholarships, and that also affects how much effort they put into their studies.
“When it comes easier, I think they are less concerned,” Campos said.
Liu said when he came to the U.S., his family could not financially support him. He chose his major according to the department that gave him full scholarships.
“Entitlement is really easy to get from this society,” Liu said.
Liu said he would teach his students and future children to value their resources and not take them for granted.