CLU sets out to ‘have more international students’

Carrollyne Aasen, Reporter

International students at California Lutheran University are facing different circumstances compared to previous years due to the pandemic. To accommodate these students, the university offers various resources catering to helping them through their academic journey.

Dane Rowley director of International Admission said, for the last year and a half there was a decline in applications and admissions for international students at the graduate and transfer student level. However, he said there has been an uptick in the applications for international graduate students for spring and fall 2022.

“Partly because of during the pandemic was the travel restriction, a lot of students didn’t come to the U.S. to start at a community college, which is a really big source of our international transfer students,” Rowley said.

As for the undergraduate level, he said there has not been much of an impact on first-year applications and admission as with transfer and graduate international students. Rowley said there were a few more international first-year students in fall 2021 than there were in fall 2019.

According to the Office of International Students and Scholars, there were 193 F-1 international students from 47 countries in fall 2020. Out of the 193 international students, there were 62 undergraduate international students and 100 graduate international students.

“I would like to see us start to build back a higher number of international graduate students and international transfer students at Cal Lutheran in the next few terms,” Rowley said. “It’s definitely a goal to get us not just where we were at before the pandemic, but actually build more and have more international students.”

Interim Director of the Office of International Students and Scholars Carol Swett said international student applications are coming from places the university does not usually see such as Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and other countries.

Rowley said international students pay the same tuition as domestic students but have a higher fee to cover health insurance. He also said that international students receive the same amount of scholarships as students from the United States.

Nighat Shah assistant of the Center for Global Engagement said there are international students who rely on their family’s money to attend the university and the pandemic affected families financially, so scholarships and aid help these students and their families.

“Just like in the U.S., there is this really uneven financial impact of the pandemic, so families that were really sacrificing a lot for their kids to study in the U.S.,” said Rowley. “Some of them needed their kids to come home and work or the income just wasn’t there, or the currency exchange rate made it so students couldn’t continue.”  

Swett said the CGE, which includes international admissions, study abroad and OISS, oversees everything from the recruitment of international students to aiding in the transition before and during the academic year.

“Once they are on campus, we really are a home away from home. They can come to us for anything and everything,” Swett said.

She said one of the resources they help international students with is applying for Optional Practical Training, which is a year of experience in their field of study or for STEM students, two years of experience, after graduating from Cal Lutheran before returning to their countries. According to the OISS, there were 102 international alumni involved in OPT and OPT-STEM in fall 2020.

“It’s not just about bringing them here and dropping them off and saying, ‘OK, you are on your own.’ We have to really really provide the support and the encouragement and a lot of contacts and networking for them, so they are really able to learn to navigate and acclimate and be successful,” Swett said.

The CGE and OISS Assistant Director Lara Raynaud said OISS has a full day orientation for international students prior to the orientation for the university.

“I would say orientation is definitely the bigger piece for their integration because it’s the first time they arrive on campus and meet other international students,” Raynaud said.

During this orientation, Raynaud said international students meet their peer mentors for the first time in person and these mentors walk them through how to adjust and how to find resources on campus. She said these mentors are part of the peer mentorship program and span more than just other international students to include students interested in global studies and study abroad alumni. Raynaud said the basis of the pairing of international students with their peer mentors is through nationality and beyond that, through mutual interest.

“In my last seven years of working, I have seen many peer international pair mentors and mentees become actual best of friends and their relationship lasted beyond this program and what it offered,” Shah said.

During the pandemic, Shah said there were two wellness checks on the international students to ask how they are going. She said students expressed needing more support and the use of technology was a learning experience.

“They all agreed that their professors are phenomenal, and they are very accommodating to the international time differences that some of the students were doing in class,” Shah said.

Rowley said recruitment and the retention of international students is more than the CGE, it is the campus and the way the university comes together to support international students that makes international student recruitment and retention successful.

“We are not just helping them, they are helping us be a better community, so it’s more of a mutual relationship,” Rowley said.