UI leads in number of foreign students
CHAMPAIGN – Seung yeoul Lee, sipping on a Sunny D in a University of Illinois office, followed a pipeline direct from South Korea to John Street.
Lee, whose UI graduate work was in metals, has a friend who graduated from the UI two years earlier.
"It's the reputation," Lee said.
The UI now has the largest number of foreign students of any public university in the country, eclipsing Purdue with about 5,300 of them, mostly graduate students, according to the Institute of International Education.
The UI's International Education Week is March 28 to April 6.
Events include two film festivals and a music festival. A schedule of events is at http://webtools.uiuc.edu/calendar/Calendar?calId=1215.
International students make up about 13 percent of the 41,000 students on the Urbana-Champaign campus, and pay a higher tuition rate – if they do not win graduate assistantships.
The students come from 120 countries; the largest numbers of them come from South Korea, China and India, said William Brustein, an associate provost at the university.
The Urbana campus mirrors the rest of the nation's universities in that regard. Youngjoo Lee, a South Korean studying painting at the UI, said she was attracted to the university in part because its reputation for safety was better than some of its more urban peers.
Brustein said international students have several factors to calculate in choosing a university.
"When you think about that calculation, it includes the quality of academics, the best labs. ... UI has a phenomenal world reputation, particularly in east and south Asia," he said.
But students and parents also consider their bank accounts.
"Urbana is a good buy compared to Harvard, MIT or Stanford," he said. "Also, they look at security. They know from people who have already been here that Champaign-Urbana is a relatively safe place to live. And then there's critical mass. It's such a large place that students from Bangladesh know they won't be the only students from Bangladesh here."
"In Korea and China, people know about Champaign-Urbana because of this university," said Rajeev Malik, coordinator of special projects in international studies.
Brustein said the office of International Student and Scholar Services, where the two unrelated Lees were getting job advice, also tries to look out for the students' well-being.
Just for fun, the Indoor World Cup allows students to stand for their nations and compete against other countries to bring home the "World Cup trophy" here. The six-a-side soccer tournament is open to students, faculty, staff, scholars and their spouses at the UI's Ice Arena.
Some of the UI's reputation abroad has increased international students' enrollment at Parkland College as well.
Joy Garling Prud'homme, assistant director for International Student Services at Parkland, said, "we have increased steadily, though not as significantly as at the UI.
In Frederic Beaugeard's French 104 class, five of seven students are originally from Africa.
But not all students from foreign countries are international students, Prud'homme said.
"We have a large immigrant population, including African students. They apply as domestic students," she said.