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NIU trying to recruit more international students

International students Hongshi Wu (left) and Greg Luo talk after a class inside the Northern Illinois University Engineering Building on wednesday in DeKalb. Both Wu and Luo came from China to study at NIU.
International students Hongshi Wu (left) and Greg Luo talk after a class inside the Northern Illinois University Engineering Building on wednesday in DeKalb. Both Wu and Luo came from China to study at NIU.

DeKALB – Vednidhi Teeruthroy did his research at home in Mauritius before making the commitment to pack all his belongings and attend Northern Illinois University.

Teeruthroy is one of 821 international students at NIU. He decided to attend the university to pursue his master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and because of the relatively low tuition.

“As an international student, finance plays a big role,” he said. “NIU made it possible for me to come here, and I really wanted to go.”

University officials hope to recruit more international students like Teeruthroy in the coming years as part of an effort to put a global presence on campus. In an Oct. 11 email, NIU President Doug Baker announced the appointment of Raymond Alden as vice president of international affairs, a newly created position, and Deborah Pierce was named associate vice president.

In addition to enhancing campus diversity, international students also pay twice as much in tuition as in-state residents, which provides a financial incentive for universities to recruit them. A typical full-time international student pays just more than $10,000 a semester in tuition, which doesn’t count room and board costs.

But Alden said the recruitment effort is not just to get a bang for the buck.

“We believe higher education fails a student if we do not provide the global competencies,” he said. “Even if you never leave this country, corporations expect their rising leaders to have global perspectives.”

In order to recruit more internationals, NIU signed a contract in 2009 with ELS Educational Services, a company that provides English instruction for students. ELS recruits students from all over the world energetically, Pierce said, and its facilities are located at the university’s Health Services building.

The university also wants to focus on growing its already strong connection with the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, which has been on campus for 50 years. Two NIU alumnae from MARA, a Malaysian government-sponsored program, will visit the campus in February to discuss a plan that would place Malaysian freshman students on campus.

“I’ve been going to Malaysia for several years and hosted a number of events in [Kuala Lumpur,] the capital of Malaysia, and now we’re seeing real students are going to come of this,” Pierce said.

The international students already attending NIU receive community support to help them adjust to life in the United States. Network of Nations, a nonprofit community organization that provides transition help for international students in the community, holds weekly cafes at 6:45 p.m. Fridays at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 511 Russell Road, DeKalb.

Network of Nations held its first cafe for the 2014 spring semester on an icy day Jan. 10, and dozens of NIU international students showed up to eat food donated from the community.

China native Greg Luo, a Network of Nations member studying for a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, said NIU could do a better job with internationals, including revising its student health insurance policy.

NIU requires students to purchase what Pierce calls its “medical evacuation and repatriation insurance” in case they become grievously ill or die while at school, Pierce said. The plan costs $1,060 a student for the 2013-14 school year.

Luo also said it’s hard for him to make friends at school.

“When I’m actually in class, it’s really hard to communicate with people. [Network of Nations] is my only opportunity to connect with people,” he said.

China native Jingbo Han, who graduated from NIU with a master’s degree in electrical engineering, said he made a lot of friends at Network of Nations.

Han said he loved attending NIU.

“The university provides everything you need,” he said. “As long as you want to learn, you can have everything you want.”

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