Bridging the gap between international and domestic

January 15, 2016

The ideal dream of all admissions counselors who decide on who to accept or deny to their university is creating a diverse and unified community.

Nonetheless, not all international students like the idea of mingling with domestic students. It seems as if many are not ready or simply do not care to talk about it. However, I wish to talk about it, and an international student named Chengcheng Xiang ’18 has her own thoughts on this issue.

According to Xiang, a foreigner will inherently feel like a foreigner all their life: “They may not be confident in their English. This language barrier stands in their way of mingling with domestic students.” She added that having a cultural similarity with other people makes it easier to find friends. “Living in a foreign country where nobody speaks your native language can be difficult. Personally, I feel insecure about that sometimes. As a result, it is a safe way for international [students] to have their own circle of friends with people from their home countries or, a least, who share similar cultural backgrounds,” she said.

For Xiang, as an international student in the U.S., she believes the most difficult part is getting out of her comfort zone. “I was really intimidated by domestic students at first. Later, I started to join clubs and meet new people. I felt it was hard to join conversations at first—everyone spoke so fast. However, I realized later [that] I should be authentic. I make efforts to be confident and honest about my opinions and share it with others, either domestic or international students.”

When asked about some of the differences between domestic and international students, Xiang expressed her frustration for not getting equal consideration for merit scholarships the same way that domestic students do. As a result, virtually all of the international students have to pay the university’s sticker price, which is roughly 60 thousand dollars annually and is drastically increasing every year.

In fact, Brandeis University attracts a large population from abroad, especially from China, where Xiang is originally from. Two of the reasons why Brandeis, along with many other universities and higher-learning institutions, is accepting more international students is because these students are capable and willing to pay the entire price. In addition, international students often have higher standardized scores and GPAs, which boost the school’s reputation and allows it to accept and fund other students—students who may come from low-income families and/or low-performing high schools.

If international students have some of the highest standardized scores and GPAs, why are they not taken into consideration for merit scholarships as domestic students are? Some may argue that there is not enough funding. However, according to U.S. News, small institutions with a lower endowment (such as Skidmore College) provided an average of 56,600 dollars in financial aid to 96 international students during the 2014-15 school year. Trinity College, another small liberal arts college with a relatively lower endowment, also funded 166 international students with 54,788 dollars of financial aid awarded.

Xiang believes that offering more financial aid to international students would encourage more students from abroad to apply.

Even though there are clearly differences and disadvantages of being an international student compared to being a domestic student, not all international students rebuff the idea of mingling with domestic students. Xiang is a perfect example of being involved on campus; she belongs to BADASS (Brandeis Academic Debate and Speech Society) and holds a leadership position in the Chinese Language Program organized by Brandeis’s language department.

She also added that in her experience, “Asians have a tradition of not speaking up. We have an old common phrase ‘You don’t speak out, you don’t complain.’” Perhaps one of the reasons why some international students complain about their disadvantages is also because of how their different culture and upbringing affect their perspective.

According to Xiang, as an international student herself, “I always complain about the extraordinary expensive tuition for internationals … But more importantly, from my perspective, unlike [other students of color] in our community, international students are reluctant to form a unified group that speaks for their best interests. In other words, internationals don’t attempt to act and demand as a group.”

In other words, some international students prefer to remain hermits, although it may not be because of inferiority or complex differences between domestic and international students. Perhaps it is because of the way their upbringing affects their personality and way of socializing.