Florida International University has more than 3000 foreign students and is looking to recruit more. Ari Odzer reports.
Considering Florida International University has more than 3,000 foreign students, one could say the school is aptly named.
Most of the international students bled seamlessly into the overall population on campus.
“They bring the diversity to the university," said Ana Sippin, FIU's director of International Student Services. "We have students from over 125 different countries."
Sippin said most of FIU's international students come from China, Venezuela and Colombia.
Sophomore Makita Rova came to FIU all the way from Fiji.
“So there’s not many people from the Pacific Islands in Florida at all, but I do feel at home with other international students because we all share similar experiences of culture shock," Rova explained, saying she wanted the excitement of going to college in the United States in a big-city environment after living all her life on a small island.
Senior Maria Jose Zuniga had a simpler reason for coming to FIU.
“I just wanted to get out of Nicaragua,” Zuniga said.
American universities often hunt for students world-wide.
“FIU recruits from strategic areas," Sippin said, speaking of the economic impact made by international students. "They are an economic engine to the states and the region and the city and the university."
Foreign students pay out-of-state tuition so they're valuable to the university financially, and FIU does everything it can to make sure the students are comfortable enough to stay for four years. Colleges covet international students too because they expose American students to different cultures.
“Schools in the US, they are very international student-friendly, if that’s a way to say it, because they give you everything, they give you help, they guide you step-by-step,” said Luis Arguedas of Costa Rica, who is studying finance at FIU.
FIU provides peer mentors, such like Zuniga, who teach international freshmen all they need to know to succeed on campus and off.
"Because I’ve been through it, I know it’s hard to be here and not having anybody, it’s really tough, so I try my best to help them, to guide them," Zuniga said.
"I’m an international relations major,” said Rova, who laughed when it was suggested that was an appropriate course of study for someone who's home is so far away.
“Yeah, they have a good program here," she said.
The program is good and it's getting bigger. Like most American universities, FIU plans to step up both its recruiting and retention efforts for international students. The bottom line depends on it.