By Syeda Sameeha, Staff Writer
Elmhurst College (EC) administration strives to gradually grow the international student program.
Last year, EC President Troy VanAken’s main focus was reaching out and visiting China and Vietnam in order to form relationships to strengthen EC’s international student program.
“Last year was really more about me trying to extend myself overseas and form relationships with private high schools in Asia,” VanAken said.
In the 2016 school year, EC had ten new international students enroll. This year is similar with twelve new students, according to Director of International Education Gail Gilberts.
The administration has no intention nor expectation for the program to grow exponentially over night.
“Ideally I’d like almost 100 international students in total as opposed to the 44-50 range that Elmhurst has now,” VanAken stated. “But I understand it’s not a bad idea to have a gradual increase. That way we are better equipped to nurture and support international students. It’s easier to grow the program gradually than drastically.”
One initiative the college has recently implemented is a summer immersion program targeting high achieving high school students from international countries.
“We worked with eleven students from Vietnam this summer,” Gilberts said, “So when making the decision of colleges in the near future, hopefully Elmhurst is at the top of [their] list.”
While initiatives such as summer immersion programs are key to develop a strong international students program, one factor cannot be ignored: the political climate in the United States.
VanAken acknowledges this, but remains positive.
“It is hard to combat the growing political climate in the United States, which seems to be sending a message that is anti-immigrant,” he said, “But we are living in a global economy, so I am optimistic that things will improve. It is important for Elmhurst to focus on building the international students program because it is very beneficial in the long run.”
VanAken believes in order to establish a strong international student market, there are three things a school must provide to really nurture and support their international students: academic programs students are interested in, language support and resident services.
“In terms of academic programs, I think we are doing a good job here and we are not deficient. We have several students interested in our business program, some our nursing program, computer science and much more,” he said. “But language support is an important thing. Often times a student may speak English or pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) with a good score, but they are not used to American English.”
Lastly, VanAken said providing resident services that support international students in a new environment is also necessary to support international students.
“We need to understand this is very different from coming from another state. They are coming from another country, into a place with a whole new system. EC needs to develop resident services for these students in particular,” he said.
While most of the focus is still on Asian countries, EC is also looking into other countries, such as Greece and Colombia, for potential recruitment opportunities.