The University’s intentional student programs have helped usher in an unprecedented number of  students from abroad for the 2011-12 school year.

Approximately 2,000 international students were enrolled for fall term as of Monday, according to the Office of International Affairs. While the number of international students on campus has been growing steadily for the last three years, this year marks an increase of more than 300 and comes close to fulfilling the University’s long-term goal of having eight percent of the student body from outside the United States.

When it comes to the increased enrollment, said Magid Shirzadegan, director of international student and scholar services, the University of Oregon has a good reputation. “Parents feel comfortable sending their children here.”

One part of the explanation for the increased enrollment, according to Shirzadegan, is that the majority of these students are Chinese citizens. Because of China’s current economic advantages, choosing to pursue degrees in the United States — where tuition for international students can be four times as [email protected]@Where is this information [email protected]@ — is now becoming an increasingly appealing option for Chinese students.

Even so, the international representation on campus is far greater than just Chinese citizens. The University currently houses students from 90 [email protected]@Where? One building? Spread out in various [email protected]@, which gives [email protected]@Which students? Just the general American ones? International ones, too? [email protected]@ the opportunity to interact with cultures that they normally would never be exposed to, according to Shirzadegan.

This increased exposure, some campus leaders [email protected]@You say “some.” I only see reference to only one – Cargile (see below)@@, will help foster cultural awareness and tolerance throughout the entire student body.

Jill Cargile, director of special programs for the University’s American English Institute, cited a new University program started this year that has already brought 15 Iraqi students to study on campus. “We’re lucky to have these students here,” she said.

The program, which was established through a $3.3 million grant from international partners in the Rumalia oilfield in Southern [email protected]@Where is this information coming [email protected]@, sends students from the University of Basrah, Iraq to Eugene to study at the University’s American English Institute.

The purpose of the program, Cargile said, is to help them not only learn English in order to help rebuild their nation, but also to further their understanding of American culture — beyond what they have seen from the U.S. military presence in their country.

For their American peers, Cargile hopes, their presence on campus will also prove mutually beneficial.

“This is a culture that has not been accessible to the Unites States,” Cargile said. “It’s nice to be able to get to know this ancient and very highly cultured place.”

However, merely having more international students on campus, Shirzadegan warned, may not be enough to increase the student body’s understanding of other cultures.

“Having a good international presence is good potential,” Shirzadegan said, “but it needs to be tapped into.”

Though there are already programs on campus that encourage cross-cultural interactions — such as language circles and culture nights, Shirzadegan feels that there is still a division between international students and the rest of the student body.

The increasing international enrollment, Shirzadegan hopes, “will encourage faculty and students to tap into these opportunities to interact with international students.”


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