Report shows increase in number of international students enrolling in CA universities

Micah Carroll/Staff

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More international students are choosing to study in California than any other state, with UC Berkeley ranked as one of the top colleges, according to a report from the Institute of International Education.

Over 7,000 international students enrolled in UC Berkeley in 2015 — about six percent more than in 2014, the report stated. UC Berkeley is ranked as the top 16th school for hosting international students, with a record total of about 1 million foreign students registered at American colleges and universities.

“California has always been attractive to students because of the number and diversity of institutions,” said Rajika Bhandari, director of the Institute of International Education’s Center for Academic Mobility Research. “(International) students are often drawn to locations in the U.S. where there may be a large immigrant population.”

The number of international students in California was 10.5 percent higher than last year, with a majority of these students coming from China and India.

Bhandari said foreign students from Asia often choose to stay in proximity to their Asian country, marking California as a top choice. The increased popularity of STEM fields, especially engineering, also attracts students to California’s well-known higher education science programs, according to Bhandari.

Erin Murphy-Graham, an associate adjunct professor at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, said it is natural for international students to choose California because it is a state comprised of many different nationalities. Images of California in the media appear to look like “paradise” and youths from around the world crave to be exposed to languages and cultures different from ones they grew up with, Graham said.

“I wanted to experience a different life,” said Tinsley Zhu, an international campus sophomore from China. “I watched different American movies and was touched by the American dream, and I thought (California) was a really good place.”

According to Eddie West, director of International Programs at UC Berkeley Extension, higher education in America is viewed as the gold standard. UC Berkeley is especially appealing, given its reputation, weather and quality education.

West added that the campus’s “global footprint” makes more families worldwide pay attention to opportunities at UC Berkeley.

“I didn’t know much about the school, as it was only after I got accepted that I actually started looking into it,” said Flora Kwon, an international campus junior who has lived in many Asian countries. “College ranking was the easiest to decide and it was realistic for me.”

Ivor Emmanuel, director of the Berkeley International Office, or BIO, said his department has made considerable efforts to create programs, workshops and other tools to enhance academic success for foreign students. BIO has also established programs to support a strong international community at UC Berkeley.

“I kind of know I won’t be discriminated against because of ethnicity,” said Irene Ha, an international campus freshman from South Korea. “It’s kind of strange but images of California and the Bay Area (are) really positive … at least for Korea and China, the Californian dream is rising.”

Contact Gibson Chu at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @thegibsonchu.