By University of Arkansas (uark.edu)
The University of Arkansas continues to show improvement in the diversity of the student body, as more students from around the world are calling the university home. A total of 1,545 international students are enrolled at the U of A this semester, representing 114 countries. China, Panama, India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are the foreign countries best-represented on campus.
“The University of Arkansas continues to expand its international presence, which is evidenced by the students we have here,” said Curt Rom, associate dean for International Education. “Having international students on our campus and in our classrooms broadens and strengthens the learning of all of our students, and develops international awareness among our students and faculty. They add to community and learning experience.”
As the international student population increases, the staff members in the Office of International Students and Scholars are finding more opportunities for campus and community engagement.
The university’s iFriend program facilitates year-long Friendship Families and Campus Cousins, which match international students and scholars with families in Northwest Arkansas and domestic students at the U of A. The program also offers one-time experiences, giving members of the community opportunities to host international students for “Dinner in an American Home.”
“The iFriend program is a great example of the community embracing our international students,” said Michael Freeman, director of the Office of International Students and Scholars. “When we ask members of the community to step forward, they do so in such generous ways and incorporate our students into their family lives.”
Rae Targos, a recent graduate of the operations management master’s degree program and former Campus Cousins host, was motivated to become involved with the iFriend program because she wanted international students to have a positive view of Americans and American culture.
“I wanted them to have a chance to experience America beyond campus and Dickson Street, and having friends to do those things with is a crucial part of having a positive experience,” she said.
In the process of ensuring her campus cousins made the most of their time at the U of A, Targos found that her own college experience was enhanced.
“I learned about different cultures, perspectives and human experiences,” she said. “And, I made new friends in the process.”
The Office of International Students and Scholars also brings international cultures to the community through the International Culture Team, which had an all-time high of presenting to more than 11,000 people last year. The team members, composed of international students and scholars and domestic students who have studied abroad, share information about their cultures through presentations, demonstrations and performances.
“Students love participating in the International Culture Team because it allows them to exchange viewpoints and share about what life is really like in their country, not just what is shown on television,” said Cynthia Smith, assistant director for outreach in the Office of International Students and Scholars. “Campus and community members appreciate the service that the team provides of bringing the world to them.”
Through the iFriend program, the International Culture Team and a variety of other engagement programs facilitated by the Office of International Students and Scholars, Freeman hopes the impact of international students at the U of A will be felt wider than just the Fayetteville campus or the Northwest Arkansas community.
“By enhancing the international student experience here, we hope our students will leave Fayetteville with a positive view of the University of Arkansas and of the United States, thus advancing the ideal of citizen diplomacy,” Freeman said.
For more information about ways to get involved with the international student community at the U of A, contact the Office of International Students and Scholars at firstname.lastname@example.org.