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Student Life

The Truth About International Students at K

Paul Tshele ‘15, a degree seeking international student from Zimbabwe was looking for a college beyond one just for pure academics to attain his quest for education. He pictured a college where students from different cultures would come together to acquire knowledge and develop wholly culturally. He finally thought Kalamazoo College was the right environment for him to pursue his degree.

Tshele, a Political Science major at Kalamazoo College, knew the college through his professors at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) where he studied his Associate of Arts Degree in Political Science. He decided to transfer to Kalamazoo College in pursuit of his major.

Kalamazoo College admits degree international students from different countries. According to Eric Staab, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, higher number of applicants are from China, South Korea, Vietnam, Jamaica and Thailand. He also noted that the number of degree seeking international students has been increasing gradually from 2006.

Besides degree seeking, Kalamazoo College also receives visiting international students on a yearly basis. Kalamazoo College seeks for students who are in their 2nd or 3rd year of a 4-year program with a “B” or 3.0 average GPA on a 4.0 scale to participate in the University Partner Exchange Program (UPEP). English language proficiency tests are always done to ensure that all visiting students can communicate in English. The visiting international students’ understanding of the liberal arts is also important to enable them know what to expect once in Kalamazoo College.

All visiting international students are required to live in the dormitories and eat in the cafeteria on campus. According to Margaret Wiedenhoeft, transition to the American food is the most challenging part to most international students. This has been the greatest challenge for most of the visiting students. The International students must also meet the requirement of being unmarried and younger than 25 years of age. Joe noted that this was a criteria used to select them.

Having worked for the Centre of International Programs for 36 years, Joe Brockington, thinks it is the best idea for students to also come in from other countries, not Americans going out from the country. He thinks having it two-way is a way of facilitating cultural interchange and cultural learning. “We want to make our universities, our courses, our faculties, our students more internationalized.” said Joe Brockington. “And to do that we need international students.”

According to Joe Brockington, the budget is the main limiting factor when running the international students program. It has limited the participation of visiting international students to twenty seven students. Kalamazoo College can only accommodate few people on campus taking into consideration of its size. Most countries that are selected to participate depend on the ease of countries to form relationships/partnerships, programs that Kalamazoo College has to offer. Being a Liberal Arts College, Kalamazoo College can only select students who have the ‘K spirit.’ This in turn limits the number of participants in this program.

Financial needs and the inability to travel and explore is a great challenge to most visiting students. Though students might be willing to travel, their financial status cannot allow. Visiting international students have limitations on the number of hours to work (20 hours per week) and this cannot sustain them fully to meet their desires of exploring taking into account that they are at K College for a year.

Margaret Wiedenhoeft, Associate Director of the CIP, said the degree seeking international students’ greatest challenge is getting VISAs again to get back into the U.S. after visiting their families. This has made most of them visit their families once in four years or even finish their four years and graduate without visiting them. The structure and intensity of the education system at K College is a factor that has made most visiting students to readjust themselves and fit into it since they have limitations on number of credits to take with little flexibility. Visiting students have an added responsibility of being a teaching assistant (TA) for their respective native language which they get paid for the number of hours they teach.

“This program is tremendously helpful in the language department for TAs to be native speakers,” said Margaret Wiedenhoeft.

Visiting international students are also required to have an interest in taking courses in the liberal arts curriculum, which means they should be prepared to engage in coursework from a variety of academic disciplines along with some courses in their major. Though Kalamazoo College has study abroad programs for its students, not all students are able to go abroad.

According to Margaret Wiedenhoeft, the goal of international students program is for Kalamazoo College to learn the cultural aspect of visiting students to complement what they are learning. “People that come from around the world have different world views, different ways of looking at things,” said Margaret Wiedenhoeft.

Joe Brockington noted that having visiting international students at Kalamazoo College is like bringing a little part of the world into the campus. This enables students who have not gone abroad to experience different cultures while in school.

“I really wanted to study abroad, possibly in the United States,” said Keabonye Mobe ’16, a 2014 participant in the visiting international program from Botswana. Keabonye, is part of a group of students studying with the program for one year. “As it is one of the most economically powerful countries in the world, the U.S. is something I knew I needed to know more about,” she added. But Keabonye feels frustrated that she has to be one year behind when she gets back home after the program. She feels the college is not flexible enough to let international students select classes that can be transferrable since she did not find her major here.

“We’re serving the entire Kalamazoo College community—not just visiting students,” said Joe Brockington. “We’re bringing more international perspectives to this college and we’re serving as a resource for students already here on campus. It’s a great opportunity for American and international students alike.”

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The Truth About International Students at K