National trend of increasing international student enrollment seen at MU

The number of international students in higher education increased for the sixth year.

Freshman Anurag Chandran didn’t always understand football. When he came to MU from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, he knew almost nothing about the American sport. He had heard of some guy named Tom Brady. He heard there was someone else named Peyton Manning. But Chandran couldn’t make sense of the pastime.

Chandran, who said he now loves football, realized he wasn’t alone.

“I’ve heard of a lot of international students (talking with each other) to learn up (on football),” Chandran said, laughing. “Luckily for me my roommate generously taught me all the rules of the game, so there you go.”

Chandran, an international student, is part of a national trend. A Nov. 12 Institute of International Education press release stated the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities increased by 6 percent last year. The number of international undergraduates also outnumbered international graduate students for the first time in 12 years.

The data marks the sixth consecutive year an increase in the total number of international students in U.S. higher education has been reported, the release stated. There are 31 percent more international students at U.S. colleges or universities than there were a decade ago.

“The strong increase in international student enrollments shows the continued conviction of international students (and parents) that a U.S. degree is a sound investment in their future careers,” the release said.

There’s a trend of growth in the number of international students at MU as well, International Center director James Scott said.

“MU saw an increase of about 13 percent this fall over 2011,” Scott said. “There is an upward trend that’s continued since 2003-04.”

There are many reasons why MU attracts international students, Scott said.

"MU is a very strong public university," Scott said. "We have a very good reputation in many parts of the world. We also have MU faculty and staff who travel and represent MU. It really helps when prospective students can meet face to face with someone at Mizzou."

There are other mediums that help, too, Scott said. Social media connects current faculty, staff and students with out-of-country students. Alumni chapters get university information to several countries. Recommendations can also bring in prospective students.

“Many international students share their experience at Mizzou with friends and family,” Scott said. “Word-of-mouth recommendations really help.”

The rise in international students is not surprising, Scott said.

“The population of college-age students is mushrooming, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” Scott said. “The number of students who want higher education is growing faster (than) university capacity in many countries.”

Chandran said he was surprised at how many international students he found at MU.

“Definitely (I was surprised),” Chandran said. “Especially more of the East Asian countries – definitely more than I expected to see.”

MU was intimidating at first, Chandran said.

It seemed like a huge school, and he knew no one, but the university helped with the transition, Chandran said. During an orientation for international students, he learned “what to do” and “what not to do” as an international student.

Though Chandran has occasionally noticed a culture barrier between himself and other students, he hasn’t had any trouble making friends. He said he likes to hang out with kids from the International Students Association and has also has met a lot of “very friendly” American-born citizens.

Chandran, who’s spent most of his life in a different culture, said he could get used to Columbia.

“I think this is home rather than Dubai now,” Chandran said. “I’m loving it here.”

Scott said he thinks the trend of growth in international student enrollment won’t slow down anytime soon.

“This trend will continue,” Scott said. “Nationally and at Mizzou.”

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