International Students' Day at Hood
Hood College is proud to celebrate our vibrant international student community.
International Education Week
- Global Languages & Cultures
International students are an integral part of the Hood College community. Hailing from 30 countries around the world, they enrich what is already a diverse student body by bringing a wealth of unique cultural currencies to campus. At both the graduate and undergraduate level, students from Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Ukraine, Nigeria and beyond can be found in our classrooms. Currently, there are more than 250 international students enrolled at Hood.
On November 17 each year, colleges and universities across the globe celebrate International Students’ Day. In the 2019-2020 school year, more than one million international students were enrolled in American institutions alone. According to NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students studying at colleges and universities in the US contribute $39 billion to the national economy, while also supporting more than 400,000 jobs.
The benefits of studying in the US are many. International students can learn from some of the top educators in the world, be exposed to American ideals and make post-grad career connections. Many international students choose to study at Hood for the same reasons as domestic students—location, size, affordability and STEM programs. Imaan Jaffer ‘25, a computer science and global studies major originally from Tanzania, says, “I chose Hood College because of the campus, the Frederick area and most importantly the strict emphasis for equality and respect for people coming across all backgrounds.”
This comes as no surprise to April Boulton, dean of the graduate school. “This is just a very welcoming, close-knit community. That resonates with a lot of folks. I think for these international students who are flying halfway across the planet into the unknown, it's very reassuring to come to a place where everybody knows everybody.”
Despite the appeal of our higher education system, enrollment rates for international students in the US have been declining over the past year. Numerous factors have contributed to this drop, but the coronavirus pandemic is chiefly responsible, as lockdowns and travel restrictions have prevented many international students from entering the US.
Even without a once-in-a-generation pandemic to contend with, international students are faced with an array of challenges. Uprooting one’s life and moving to another country is a daunting prospect. Even after making the journey, culture shock and homesickness can be hard to reconcile. Due to visa restrictions, finding employment can also be a struggle.
Language barriers can further disrupt the learning experience in ways that domestic students might take for granted. Jaffer says, “I have grown up using British English, so units such as miles and Fahrenheit and pounds seemed really weird to me at first.” From struggling with written assignments to deciphering lectures, international students often contend with having to learn a new language on top of a full curriculum. Not to mention that English is often cited as one of the most difficult languages to master for non-native speakers.
“International students are very articulate and they're very passionate, but many of them have a lack of confidence with the English language and with American academics,” Boulton notes. “Professors want you to engage and add and contribute, but that's not the culture in many universities and colleges abroad. There are definitely some bumps they experience with classroom integration, but many of them get over it quite quickly and end up being super contributors and really get engaged. And it is just such a cool transformation to see.”
Part of what makes the transition smooth is a plethora of resources for international students that the College provides. From a highly tailored orientation to a comprehensive website and student handbook, international students can utilize a wide support net at Hood. Boulton and her team take pride in their holistic approach. “We don't stop with academics and we don't stop with the basic living arrangements. We try to support them in all the ways that a healthy person should be supported.”
Amani Al-Dajane, MBA’20, who currently serves as director of international students, echoes Boulton’s sentiments. “Because we are aware of the challenges that our international students face before and after arriving to the United States, the resources that we provide are designed to help them adapt to this new environment. We make them feel welcome from the day they submit their application, and we continue following up with them, so this eases the process and helps them focus more on academics.”
Spending time with our international student community shows that we have as much to learn from them as they do from us. Working alongside students from around the globe provides opportunities for unique cross-cultural exchange, whether it’s sampling a regional cuisine or celebrating a new holiday. It teaches us to avoid stereotyping and confront biases. Through collaboration with students who have different learning styles, we can improve our interpersonal communication and critical thinking skills.
“Regardless of where they're from, international students like for us to learn about their culture. They like to educate others about where they're from and enjoy sharing their cultural differences with us,” according to Al-Dajane. “It's very beneficial for domestic students to learn about other cultures. This will help with creating an inclusive and diverse community.”
Boulton likewise sees the mutually beneficial relationship between domestic and international students. “The longer we proceed in this highly connected, globalized world we now live in—our classrooms should look like that, and our classrooms do. International students encounter this beautiful diversity here at Hood that will help them tackle some of these challenges a bit more effectively using these different perspectives.”
The next time you see an international student walking around campus, be sure to stop and say, “Hello!” You’ll almost certainly learn something and, if you’re lucky, you might gain a new friend.
Find out more about Hood’s vibrant community of international students here.