This letter is from a group of international students at UC Davis who would like to send a message to all of you in the larger community. International students are a demographically significant part of the UC Davis student body which has been rapidly increasing every year for the past few years. There are currently about 2,000 undergraduate internationals, and by 2020, UC Davis’ goal is to increase the proportion to 5,000, which is 20 percent of the entire undergraduate population. Because of this, UC Davis needs to make attempts to understand the experiences of international students better.
As international students, we came to UC Davis to learn about American culture, to develop an international network, to learn English and to achieve academic success in a competitive environment at a globally-recognized institution.
However, language barriers, cultural conflicts and references often hinder our ability to be successful at UC Davis. For example, professors often fail to recognize if we’re struggling with class material or the wording of tests. We know that we need to use English to do the homework and tests, but this is a double burden for us compared to native speakers: we need to understand the concepts and the language.
We have made the decision to accept this double burden. It is worth the extra financial investment (international students pay nearly three times more than California residents per academic year in fees) and extra investment of energy for us to learn such an international language as English. We are motivated to make these investments but sometimes resources available to us are not meeting our needs.
Furthermore, cultural differences regarding the relationships between teachers and students in the United States versus many of our home countries are quite different. In East Asia for example, students generally do not ask questions in class, particularly questions for clarification or basic questions regarding the content, whereas it’s encouraged and expected here.
In addition to academic challenges, we are facing another important barrier: networking with local students. It is a common phenomenon for international students to stick together and not communicate with local students. The reason for this is twofold: First, we are often insecure about speaking our second language with native speakers; it’s not a comfortable language for us. Second, many native speakers are impatient or indifferent about interacting with us socially.
Furthermore, we rarely have a chance to get involved in American cultural topics (e.g. popular TV shows, American sports, political issues, etc.). International students often join popular organizations like Club-International (Club-I), a club designed for international students to make friends, but just with each other and not with American students.
We suggest that the following recommendations be considered by the UC Davis community with regards to the diverse experiences of the student body.
Academically, we want to get good grades but we need to already speak, read, write and understand English well. Speaking with native speakers of English is one way that we try to become better at English, but many native speakers do not have patience for those learning the language. Please take the time to listen and try to understand us.
Organizations like Club-I provide benefits, but we want better clubs run by both local and international students in order to break the invisible walls between each other. We are seeking various chances to get connected with local students and get involved in university community.
Finally, there are already a number of resources for international students, but we experience difficulties finding and utilizing them. So, there should be better outreach.
Thank you for listening,
Yuxuan Han, Bei Jia, Zehui Lin, Siyuan Liu, Naoto Tanaka, Xiezhe Wang, and Junghee Woo
Your friends from EDU 98, Winter 2013