Centre sees rise in international student population, welcomes 38 new students to campus
In keeping with its commitment to create a truly global and diverse campus, Centre College continues to grow its international student population, which has increased to 84 students. These bright, highly motivated students come from all over the world, including China, Ecuador, England, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Norway, Spain and Vietnam.
This fall, Centre welcomed 30 new degree candidates and eight exchange students. Given the dramatic increase in international students on campus, Stephen Swan was hired as international student advisor, a new position at the College. One of Swan’s primary duties is to oversee a peer mentor program that helps first-year international students acclimate to life in the U.S.
According to Swan, the entire Centre community stands to benefit from the rise in international students on campus.
“A study published by Duke University in 2013 found that American students who engaged with international students while on campus are more likely to appreciate art and literature, place current problems in historical perspective and read or speak a foreign language,” explains Swan.
The study also reported that domestic students who interacted with international students were more likely to reexamine their political and religious viewpoints as well as their beliefs about other races and ethnicities.
“These are tangible benefits that also help us achieve our goal at Centre of providing a diverse community that reflects the racial and ethnic diversity of our global society,” Swan says.
Though it may be their first time in America for many of the students, most say their experiences so far have been positive, giving especially glowing reviews of Centre.
“Professors here are highly accessible and very friendly,” says Duc Nguyen ’18, who came to Centre from Hanoi, Vietnam. “We can talk about everything, not only about learning, but we can get to know each other.”
Other international students also praise this distinct closeness between Centre students and faculty. Claire Kearns, a junior exchange student from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was pleasantly surprised by how approachable and open faculty members have proven to be.
“The most surprising thing that I have encountered at Centre so far is how close the lecturers are to the students in and out of class,” says Kearns, who normally is one of 200 students in a class at her large university in Belfast. “I think it is amazing to have such a strong relationship with your lecturer, and I love the way they are available to help you if needed.”
Nguyen also appreciates the discussion-based class format at Centre, a welcome change from what he knew in Vietnam.
“Back in my hometown, the professor talks and we just sit there and take notes, but here everyone raises their hand and can talk freely,” he explains. “This is something very new to me. You can say whatever you think and everyone can discuss, which makes the lectures much more interesting.”
Almost without exception, every new international student has noted how welcoming people are on campus and in the community.
“Centre is a very friendly place,” says Khun Nyan Min Htet ’17, known around campus as “Joy Joy.” “It’s a small community, but people are very kind and very inclusive,” he adds.
Haoyi Guo, a first year student originally from Guangzhou, China, says Centre’s intimate environment was exactly what he was looking for in a college.
“I went to large public high schools in China, and then in North Carolina, where you barely knew other students—you only knew other people in your classes,” Guo explains. “I wanted to go to a small college where everybody knows one another in a close-knit community.”
Centre certainly fits the bill, and students that hail from large cities especially love the “peacefulness” of Danville.
Attending college in a new country isn’t without its own set of adjustments and challenges, however. International students new to campus often find that they must make an extra effort to find their social niche.
“I’ve noticed in America that it takes even longer to form your social circle,” says Ke Li ’18, who comes from Shenzhen, China, where students stay with the same group of classmates throughout their time at school. “In America, you have to choose the class you want to attend and you meet different people in different classes.”
Li also notes that it can be difficult for international students to branch out of their comfort zones.
“You have to make a balance between the time that you spend with other international students and the time you spend with American students,” she says.
In addition to navigating new social challenges, international students must also adjust to a variety of cultural differences. For example, some students recall that they had to adapt to certain American customs and practices that were unfamiliar to them, such as paying for meals individually when eating out with a large group or wearing shoes inside living spaces, which in some countries is considered disrespectful.
Though each international student’s background and experience is unique, they are all optimistic about the opportunities that Centre provides to thrive academically and personally.
Ultimately, Swan is certain that the College’s continued emphasis on global diversity will pay dividends in the long run.
“I have always thought that the best lessons in international relations are learned by interacting with one another,” says Swan. “So, in this sense, our international students are a very important resource to our campus.”
by Caitlan Cole