Supporting International Students

International Education for F–1 Students at California State University, Long Beach

Paul M. Lewis, Director
Center for International Education

International students are an essential element of the overall plan for international education at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB). In order to put international students into the proper perspective, this paper will first briefly address the distinguishing features of international education at CSULB.

The Center for International Education (CIE) is a multipurpose administrative unit operating under the aegis of the division of Academic Affairs. It brings together a number of essential international services at the university, including the admission processing for any student seeking to enter the university who may have coursework from outside the United States. This includes both U.S. permanent residents, as well as international students (i.e. students on F-1 or J-1 visas), and those on other non-immigrant visas. In addition, the International Student Services section of the CIE provides a number of services for international students, which will be discussed at greater length later in this paper. Study Abroad Services are also part of the CIE operations, assisting domestic students to find study, intern or work opportunities outside the U.S. In addition, the CIE establishes international exchanges with other institutions throughout the world (there are currently some 30 such active exchanges), host's official-level international visitors, and serves as the university's international protocol office.

An International Studies major and minor combines the study of international relations, global and development issues and contemporary belief systems. This interdisciplinary bachelor's degree program is designed to provide a rigorous introduction to the complex interrelationships that exist among societies in the modern world. Additionally, an International Business certificate program also exists, which enhances and expands the scope of business students by combining the traditional undergraduate degree in business with additional training in the area of international business.

Awards for internationalizing the curriculum were initiated at Cal State Long Beach in 1988. Sponsored by the faculty-governed International Education Committee, these awards are designed to encourage faculty to develop new courses or to modify existing ones that will infuse international and/or non-western elements into the university curriculum. Since its inception, 85 awards have been granted, half for new courses and half for redesigned existing courses, and some 70% of these courses have been incorporated into the regular curriculum.

There is also an International House dormitory on campus. This residence hall facility, unique in the entire 23 campus California State University (CSU) system, matches an international and a domestic student in each of its rooms in order to foster personal and cross-cultural interaction.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly in terms of overarching policy related to international education, the campus Academic Senate recently passed a policy document sent to it by the International Education Committee. This document was the result of a yearlong highly collaborative process involving faculty, staff, students, and administrators from all divisions of the university. The purpose of the document is twofold, first, to promote the visibility of international
education both on and off campus, and second, to formalize the organizational structure for strategic planning and fundraising purposes, and in so doing to "legitimize" international education in the university's budget-allocating process.

Perhaps it can be seen from the above very brief outline that international education is a very important element of the overall structure of the university. As was mentioned above, international students form an extremely important part of this structure. Cal State Long Beach currently has approximately 1250 international students on campus, which is approximately four and a half percent of the overall student population of 28,000. This number includes 975 students in degree-seeking programs, 60 students on short-term exchanges, and slightly over 200 students learning English as a second language (ESL) in our American Language Institute (ALI). The ALI operates out of the division of the University College and Extension Services.

Because international students are an extremely important component of the campus ethos, a number of programs and services are offered for this essential university population. The unique structure of the Center for International Education that brings together under one roof many services for international students have already been mentioned above. It is not at all unusual, for example, on many university campuses for the admission operation to serve as a barrier and a gatekeeper to individuals with educational credentials from other countries. This is not true at Cal State Long Beach. An Assistant Director of the CIE is especially assigned to oversee this operation, and to be sure that, while maintaining requisite academic standards, it remains a student friendly process. This part of the CIE's operations receives some 25,000-student inquiries each year, and international student numbers continue to grow despite the on-going Asian financial crisis. In addition to the Assistant Director in charge, there are two fully trained evaluators, a receptionist, a data-entry person, and several student assistants.

Once international students arrive on our campus, there are a number of important services available to them through the International Student Services (ISS) segment of the CIE's operations. First, international students are urged to attend a weeklong orientation that begins some two weeks before the beginning of class both fall and spring semester. An important part of this process includes assistance from trained student Peer Advisors, who help newly arrived students with the myriad of paperwork and reporting procedures that are required of individuals on non-immigrant visas. In addition, workshops are offered, such as one to familiarize new students from abroad with U.S. teaching styles. Special trips are organized by staff and Peer Advisors in order to help students
get to know the local community (e.g. banks, grocery stores, restaurants etc.). Other field trips are offered, too, which take international students to the Hollywood Bowl and to the taping of a television sitcom. Such activities, typical of at least part of the culture of Southern California, are extremely popular with international students. The ISS segment of the CIE is made up of an Assistant Director who oversees operations, two full-time professional counselors (one Foreign Student Advisor and one Immigration Specialist), a half-time Intern, a Receptionist, and several student assistants.

In addition, there are other components of the CSULB campus that assist international students and help to make their educational and social experience a more positive one. For example, a group of more than 100 community volunteers, called the International Community Council (ICC), has worked with the CIE for over twenty-five years now offering programs for and with international students. Each fall and spring, for example, the ICC provides a luncheon for incoming international students as part of the CIE's orientation week program. They also offer such specialized programs as a Speakers' Bureau, connecting international students with groups in the community that would like to have students speak to them about their home countries and cultures. In addition, a Friendship Family program is operated by the ICC whereby international students are matched with local families and invited to various family gatherings, holiday festivities, outings etc. Finally, the ICC also provides a number of scholarships for both international students and for domestic students participating in our study abroad programs.

There is also an active International Student Association (ISA) on the CSULB campus, which is organized under the aegis of the university-wide Associated Students, Inc. It is made up of students from a large variety of national, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds, including students from the United States. Indeed, the current ISA President is a U.S. citizen. ISA conducts weekly meetings during the semester and provides a number of programs for its members, as well as for the campus community as a whole. Two such widely recognized programs are the International Fair held each fall semester, and the spring semester International Banquet. This latter has now been held for more than 30 consecutive years and annually draws crowds of over 300 people, including students, staff, and faculty.

In conclusion, no paper related to the highlighting of international students on campus would be complete without mention of Phi Beta Delta, the Society for International Scholars. This is an honor society that was founded on the campus of California State University, Long Beach, in February of 1986, and now encompasses chapters on over 100 campuses nation-wide. Indeed, it recently inducted its first non-U.S. chapter at the Universidad de las Americas in Puebla, Mexico. Alpha Chapter here on our campus has some 70 active, dues-paying members, including many international students, with over 200 other members who have been inducted over the years. One of the purposes of Phi Beta Delta, aside from the recognition of internationally related achievement, is to bring the various diverse campus groups that have an interest in international education together to learn from and generate ideas with each other in the interest of campus globalization. Membership criteria are set by the national office, and include international interests and experience for faculty/staff, and international experience and requisite GPA levels for students.

California State University, Long Beach, has made concerted efforts to internationalize its campus, and these efforts have been recognized and encouraged at the highest levels of university administration. It is widely recognized on campus that international students form an extremely important part of that international equation. Much is done both to highlight and to assist international students on campus. The university benefits, in turn, not only financially, but also through the rich cultural, linguistic, and educational diversity that international students bring to the institution and to its domestic student population.