International students face challenges at Quinnipiac
By Camila Costa
For most Quinnipiac students, not seeing a parent for almost 10 years is unusual. For Jiseok Hyun, it’s a reality.
The senior computer science major came to the United States in 2008 from South Korea. He has not seen his mother in four years and his father in almost 10 years.
Jiseok Hyun, pronounced Ji-suk Hyawn, has not been home since 2008. And if he goes back, there is a chance he might not be able to travel back to the United States.
“In Korea, all the males have to go to military service for about two years,” he said. “If I happen to go, I have a slim chance to come back here to continue my education.”
For Hyun, Quinnipiac has become his home away from home. But he has also endured challenges here, including discrimination and a feeling of not being included on campus.
Hyun is not the only international student who struggles with difficulties after coming to Quinnipiac. International students like him say that while the university does offer resources during the application process and early arrival, it needs to do more during the four years international students work and live at Quinnipiac. Specifically, international students say they want the university to reduce discrimination, educate the general student body and have a better support for English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.
International students are often being discriminated by other students or staff and faculty on campus, whether it is caused by their different appearance or their foreign accent. Regardless of the reason, Quinnipiac has not been able to stop this issue from happening.
Students say the university is also failing at teaching domestic students about other countries and cultures, which leads to a lack of understanding of cultural norms in other countries, which can also lead to discrimination against international students.
These students complain that not having the ESL support makes it more difficult for them improve their English skills. They say they feel embarrassed for their background and almost ashamed of where they come from, especially when they have to speak up in the classroom and other students discriminate them for their accents or wrong grammar.
While the university does provide support and services specifically targeted to international students, they say it needs to do more to prevent or stop those issues on campus.
HOW INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS FACE DISCRIMINATION ON CAMPUS
“I have experienced many discriminations,” said Ahrim Kim, senior health science major from Korea. “I felt like people were looking at me, and talking about me, and judging my accent and my grammar. Whenever I walk around, people will look at me, I could feel the stare and the judgement.”
Hyun has also been discriminated because of his appearance.
“We don’t specifically face discrimination because we are international students, but by race I’d say,” said Hyun. “As soon as I walked into this place, this lady asked me ‘What part of China are you from?’ I’m not even from China!”
Student clubs are an important support group for struggling students.
Hyun became the president of the International Student Association (ISA) to help others facing the same challenges he did at Quinnipiac.
Although he organizes many events for the association, he is also a supportive member for his peers. Especially when suffering discrimination from others, international students have to stick together.
Abbie O’Neill, specialist for student engagement, also admits that this is indeed an issue on campus.
“There is discrimination on campus against international students, I can’t talk about particular cases and what not, but I do know that it does exist and some of it is just a lack of understanding from other students as to what culture norms are in other parts of the world,” said O’Neill.
Quinnipiac, although providing support for international students that face discrimination, is not doing much to stop this.
Director of Global Education Andrea Hogan believes this is related to the lack of diversity at Quinnipiac.
“I think some students are educated about other cultures, but I think the majority probably are not,” said Hogan. “Most of them are from New England and so many students have not been outside the U.S. or they’re from towns where they don’t see a lot of diversity.”
Although the majority of Quinnipiac students is caucasian, the university still needs to provide support to the minorities on campus, especially when they face discrimination based on their looks or background.
ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE SUPPORT
Another type of support that the university offers is academics related. However, that support does not apply to the English language.
Quinnipiac requires international students whose native language is not English to be “able to communicate in writing and speaking in that language, since the primary language of instruction at Quinnipiac is English,” as stated on Quinnipiac’s website.
Kim, the Korean student that faced discrimination on campus, worked for Andrew Antone, the director of international recruitment and helped him in the process of accepting international students into Quinnipiac.
Students whose native language is not English are expected to submit their Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores or the International English Language Test System (IELTS) scores as well as their previous academic grades.
That would show if a student is proficient or not in the English language. However, test scores sometimes do not translate the reality of his or her skills, especially when they have to verbally engage in the classroom.
Quinnipiac does not offer an ESL and although some students and faculty think it should, others disagree.
“I know there are a few students who are not that good at speaking English and they’re scared to speak English,” said Kim. “I do think we should have an ESL program, or even a TOEFL class, or any class to teach international students proper English.”
The Director of Global Education, Hogan, agrees with Kim, but she also expresses concerns.
“I think it could be a really good thing,” said Hogan. “But, if we install and invest in hundreds of thousands of dollars for a center, but then the enrollment nationally is going down, is that a good investment? To establish your own center that is, you know, 10 miles from another one, you better have a big enough population.” said Hogan.
Although Quinnipiac does not have its own ESL program, it has a partnership with a center located at the University of New Haven (UNH).
The center is not affiliated to UNH, but it offers ESL classes for students whose native language is not English, and therefore, students can attend those classes prior to coming to Quinnipiac.
Antone believes having an ESL program could be helpful in the process of recruiting more international students.
“I think it’s certainly helpful, I think it opens up the doors to other quality qualified students that don’t speak English,” said Antone. “They are good academic students that can participate and will do very well and flourish here, but they need their English skills first.”
Creating an ESL program would not only open doors for international students to come into Quinnipiac, but also provide that additional support for students that need a little more time to have a better understanding of the English language.
That could also help international students to become more confident to speak up in the classroom and participate more without feeling doubtful about their accents or self conscious about making grammar mistakes.
IS QUINNIPIAC EDUCATING THE GENERAL STUDENT BODY?
While the university is composed of mostly students from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, it does not offer many courses teaching about other parts of the world.
“The QU 301 class highlights global community so I think students are gaining more general understanding about diversity and cultural differences,” said Hyun.
However, students don’t seem to be interested in taking those courses, unless it is mandatory – like QU 301 for seniors.
Vice President Mark Thompson has talked about including more diversity programs into the classrooms and in the upcoming curriculums so that students can become more educated in diverse issues.
It is the university’s responsibility to educate its students on issues involving the United States, but also other countries and cultures, which are just as important.
Some Quinnipiac students are oblivious of other issues happening in the world and this lack of understanding can lead to other issues on campus, including discrimination against minority groups, such as international students.
Hyun believes a way to stop or prevent these issues from happening is if the school promoted more diversity on campus.
“Definitely invest more in multicultural students and anything that has to do with diversity in general,” he said. “If there is an event, the school can promote it so that more people would come.”
Until that happens, international students say they will continue to suffer discrimination on campus.
QUINNIPIAC’S SERVICES AND SUPPORT TO INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
The support from the university begins before students even apply to the university. However, after they’ve on campus for a couple weeks, those services and support seem to disappear.
According to the school’s website, only 3 percent of the class is international. Antone is trying to increase that number by traveling around the world.
Antone visits high schools to recruit students that have not necessarily heard of the medium size school in Hamden, Connecticut.
Although he travels around the world, Quinnipiac students are mostly from Canada and China.
After Antone recruits students, they have to apply to the university and get all the paperwork needed.
After arriving at Quinnipiac, the school provides more services to the international students, however, that only happens in their early arrival.
During orientation – something that both domestic and international students have to attend – the Department of Multicultural and Global Education (DCGE) talks to international students about more resources they have, such as the documents they need to travel or work in the U.S., the Learning Commons and the Global Living program.
Global Living is a residence hall on campus for internationally minded students, which could include domestic students as well.
Hyun was one of the first residents to be apart of the Global Living program, and although he thought the initiative was a good idea, he believes the result wasn’t so great.
“Honestly, it didn’t go as well as we planned out,” said Hyun.
Since then, the program has improved and more people have wanted to be apart of it.
“It’s a really, really, really awesome experience,” said Kim, who lived in the Global Living her freshman year. “You get to learn about American culture and you can experience so many things with the other students.”
Along with the Global Living program, the university offers academic help for students in the Learning Commons.
Jonas Correa, 20-year-old freshman civil engineering major from Brazil, has been a fan of this resource since he came to Quinnipiac.
“The English I’m doing ok with because I just have a lot of problems with writing, because of my dyslexia and all of that, so I have to go to the Learning Commons all the time, but I’m handling it.”
Correa also appreciates the support of faculty and staff, whether it’s inside or outside the classroom.
“The professors are really helpful. And the Learning Commons. Also, if I ever need to talk to someone, I’ve been going to counseling center sometimes to vent.”
DCGE also offers other resources and activities, such as:
Although Quinnipiac offers a number of services to support international students, the university is still failing in maintaining that support throughout the years those students stay at Quinnipiac.
There is still a lot that needs to be done to reduce discrimination on campus, educate domestic students and provide a better support for those whose native language is not English.
However, Hyun remains hopeful for the future international students that decide to come to Quinnipiac.
“I’m glad that people are reaching out to international students asking for insights,” said Hyun. “I want people to gain something from this and have a better knowledge of international students.”