Bowdoin enrolls the fewest international students of any school in the NESCAC. Only five percent of Bowdoin Students are non-U.S. passport holders, who make up more than 10 percent of students at Colby, Middlebury, Tufts and Wesleyan.
Of these 90 international students, the Orient interviewed eight to learn about their experiences. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the resources available to them.
This is a two-part problem: Bowdoin should both be enrolling more international students and should be better supporting the needs of the international students who are already enrolled. Practically every student the Orient spoke with said that a larger international student community would provide a support system of students facing similar transitions. Though an increased population would have its benefits, it would not be meaningful without investment in resources specific to international students. As these students can attest, international students face various difficulties, some of which are admittedly outside of the College’s control. However, there are some areas in which Bowdoin could and should improve.
Bowdoin has shown the capacity to improve its institutions to better meet the needs of international students in the Writing Project and in first-year orientation. Writing Assistants are trained to work constructively and non-judgmentally with students for whom English is not their first language, recognizing a difficulty that is relevant to some international students. This year, the College added an optional pre-orientation for international students, allowing them to recover from jet lag and begin acclimating to a new culture before Orientation Trips. The College must extend this willingness to improve to other areas of the international student experience.
One such area is the Career Planning Center (CPC). International students bear an additional onus when searching for jobs because of the restrictions on work and acquiring the H-1B visas needed to work long-term in the U.S. To address the concerns expressed by international students, the CPC should construct a list of companies that they know sponsor H-1B visas and a list of companies that don’t to give students a place to start their job search. Also, the CPC staff should be more familiar with the process of obtaining an H-1B visa so that they can provide better guidance to international students.
The transition to college is challenging for everyone, but imagine if you didn’t grow up here. Deans, Residential Life staff and counseling staff should all be trained to be aware of and provide support for the unique social and cultural experiences international students face, specifically regarding issues surrounding alcohol, work-life balance and current events in a student’s home country. These resources should reassess how they attempt to meet international students’ needs by creating focus groups of international students, who can express a more accurate understanding of what methods would be most effective.
Bowdoin is capable of meeting the needs of international students, and doing so would provide the groundwork for expanding the international student population, which would benefit the whole community.
This editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient’s editorial board, which is comprised of Julian Andrews, Harry DiPrinzio, Dakota Griffin, Jenny Ibsen and Meg Robbins.