Students at Case Western Reserve University are used to thinking globally in classes and as they pursue jobs. Holding a conference call to Buenos Aires or attending a business meeting in Beijing is incredibly simple nowadays, thanks to technology like Skype or Google Phone. However, students seem to have forgotten in the midst of all of this impersonal, near-instant communication what it means to actually be a new arrival in a foreign country. Even though through work and school we connect to people from across the globe every day, we never take the time to consider how much more difficult such communication would be in person.
This is the dilemma that international students face at CWRU every single day. The University, aware of the difficulty these students faced adjusting to college life in the U.S., implemented a fantastic international student orientation program this summer – and we could not be prouder of this new program. We feel that CWRU has long prided itself on being a welcoming community unafraid to embrace diversity. By implementing the new international student orientation, we feel that the retention rates of international students and the overall quality of the international student experience will be greatly enhanced and will offer more appeal to potential new international students than other universities.
That being said, however, it is disappointing that there continues to be such a disconnect between international and domestic students. One reason frequently cited by international students is that they are automatically disqualified for need-based scholarships. This seems to do a double disservice to these students: not only do these students’ families have to pay the entire cost of tuition in addition to room, board, and supplies, but also perpetuates the myth that all international students can afford to pay these costs of attendance ($52,003 for the 2010 – 2011 academic year) out of pocket. In reality, international students have no choice but to pay these costs with whatever means possible – most likely through private loans, like most domestic students on campus. We are sure that the University is not as nefarious as to market CWRU directly to international students in hopes of getting the full sticker price out of these students, but we feel strongly that international students should be eligible for the same need-based and merit scholarships and CWRU-specific aid as domestic students. Should CWRU want to continue on the inclusive trajectory it is setting itself on, it should become a key focus of administrators to find ways to distribute aid to international students.
Finally, domestic students – particularly those in leadership positions in student groups and activities – should feel compelled to reach out especially to international students in hopes of continuing their assimilation into CWRU culture. The next time your organization wants to put on an event or is looking for new members, contact the staff at the International Student Services (ISS) or Educational Services for Students (ESS) offices. Both offices offer student leaders assistance to engage international students directly – and also help international students find ways of getting more involved around the CWRU campus. Although we’ve made great strides with international student orientation, the University must take additional steps to ensure scholarship equality for all students regardless of residency, and both international and domestic students must put extra effort into working together to form a stronger, more cohesive CWRU student body.