University’s international character grows to 14% of undergraduates

Posted January 30, 2015


From the coldest corners of Canada to the deserts of Australia, students across the globe are coming to America to bleed the orange and green of the Miami Hurricanes.

According to the University of Miami’s recent statistics, 14 percent of all undergraduate students have come to study from a foreign country. The top three countries are China, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia.

International students come to UM in search of better prospect and to relish in American culture. For example, Aalekhyaa Reddam, sophomore marine science and biology major, came to UM for the scholastic opportunity.

“I really wanted to do research. In Singapore, we do not have any marine science courses for undergrads. Meanwhile, UM has an entire marine science campus that offers research,” said Reddam.

Hanya ALKhamis, freshman journalism major from Kuwait, is currently loving her first year at UM.

“When I went back to my country last winter, I missed it here. It is more fun, more open; you are the parent of yourself.” she said.

Other international students are just in love with the campus itself.

“The professors and academics are great, but the scenery itself is what makes this campus so great. The palm trees and layout overall make me miss home a little less.” shared Trinidadian Trishelle Leacock, freshman motion pictures major.

With all the positive changes these students face comes few negative outcomes. Culture shock is one factor that most international students have encountered while studying abroad. Other have also felt partially homesick.

“Back home in India and Singapore, modesty is a big thing. It is not necessarily bad that there is not as much modesty here, but it is different,” said Reddam, “There’s no good Indian food in Miami.”

Bahamian Frankelle Outten, junior biology major, has had her share of culture shock too.

“Everything runs at a faster pace here; in the Bahamas there is no sense of urgency” shared Outten. ALKhamis said she did not feel homesick, but rather “friendsick.”

“I feel like I am home because I see many Arabs at UM. I do have friends here, yes, but there is a difference between best friends from home and friends you make in a new atmosphere.” said ALKhamis.

Unlike students such as Leacock and Outten, not all international students come from English-speaking countries. When applying to UM, international students must take the International English Testing System. The IELTS exam tests the student’s English proficiency through listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. The test is scored from 1 to 9 and the student must score a 6.5 to be considered proficient enough to study regular UM courses.

If the student scores below, however, they are placed in IEP. The Intensive English Program helps international students strengthen their English, adjust to the university life, and provide guidance for non-academic matters.

UM also has numerous student run associations and clubs that are also great aids for international students. One of which is COISO, the Council of International Students and Organizations. The initial mission of COISO is to promote diversity amongst all undergraduate and graduate members, international or not.

Within COISO, students get to interact with other international students from more than 100 distinct countries. Here they attend events, create friendships, and get to explore multiple cultures.

Reddam, a COISO cabinet member, said that COISO has become a safe place for her.

“When you come here and see so many Americans, you feel kind of alone. There are some things you cannot talk to them about. When you are having international problems like issues with your visa, getting a job or cultural issues, some Americans just do not understand,” shared Reddam.

COISO allows international students to venture outside of UM and explore other parts of Florida. International students are limited on their ability to travel due to lack of transportation. COISO has taken their members to Disney World, Universal Studios and Miami Heat games. With this service, an international student can appreciate the luxuries of Miami without the pressure of purchasing their own personal means of transportation.

“We mostly have Asians in COISO,” Reddam stated, “but this year we have Uruguayans, Greeks, Egyptians, and many other nationalities.”

COISO also has sub organizations that are oriented to more specific ethnicities. Some of these include the CSA, the Caribbean Students Association; and Hui Aloha, the Pacific Islander Student Association.