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Navigating College as an International Student

Each year, millions of students embark on the journey to discover the perfect place for their higher education experience. For many this journey is confined within the realms of their home country; however, for around 6.4 million students every year this journey ends in a foreign country. According to Forbes, in 2023 American universities had a total enrollment of 1,057,188 international students. 


The Ohio State University is home to nearly 6,000 international students, making up around nine percent of the student body. Over half of the international students at Ohio State come from China. India, South Korea, and Malaysia follow behind as the countries with the second, third, and fourth most international students at Ohio State. The Fisher College of Business has international students from over 30 different countries, and business is the second most popular area of study among these students. 


International students contribute greatly to the diverse community within Ohio State. They enrich the campus with a wealth of cultural insights and global perspectives. Their stories offer a glimpse into the interconnectedness of the global economy and the transformative power of cross-cultural exchanges. Today, we will be uncovering the unique experience and perspective of one of these ambitious individuals, shedding light onto what it is actually like to study at Fisher as an international student.


Nicole Kuan is a third-year marketing student from Malaysia. She is a member of WIB and many other student organizations within and outside of Fisher. Nicole is a member of Fisher Ink, the Dean’s Leadership Academy Ambassador Team, MUNDO, and a chair-elect for Taste of OSU. On top of all of this, Nicole balances three different on-campus jobs. She works as an international peer advisor at the Office of International Affairs (OIA), a student manager at Traditions at Morrill, and a marketing assistant for Ty Shepfer (a senior lecturer and the director of honors cohort at Fisher). Nicole has found her love for Ohio State through its wealth of opportunities, events, and connections. 


Allan Goodman, the CEO of Institute of International Education (IIE) states that “the U.S. [has remained] the destination of choice for international students wishing to study abroad… for more than a century.” Nicole chose to study in the U.S. because she was more familiar with the U.S. college application process and the tuition for international students was much more reasonable in the U.S. compared to many other countries. She ultimately chose to attend Ohio State because of their unique scholars program, and because she has extended family in Ohio. 


After arriving in America, international students often find themselves navigating a whirlwind of cultural differences, from everyday interactions to broader societal norms. For Nicole, the biggest cultural shock was how most people in the U.S. addressed each other by their first name. She notes that she was surprised that most lecturers at Ohio State let their students call them by their first name and in the workplace employees always call their manager or boss by their first name. 


The journey as an international student does not come short with its challenges. Studying in a foreign place brings a host of obstacles that often involve daunting tasks that require resilience, resourcefulness, and a willingness to step outside of one’s comfort zone. Nicole arrived at Ohio State in autumn of 2021. At this time, the United States was still in the process of recovering from the pandemic, which made certain experiences as an international student even more challenging. It was a time when most people were still wearing masks and many people were hesitant to be around large groups of people, which meant that various events were held virtually. Nicole says that this made it hard to find a sense of belonging within the university. She missed out on orientation events and campus tours, making it difficult to meet new people. It took much longer to integrate within the Ohio State community and find her place within the university. 


A current challenge that Nicole and many other international students are facing is the job market. The beginning of spring is a time when a lot of Fisher students are hearing back about their internship, receiving offer letters, and posting about their summer plans all over LinkedIn. For Nicole, it is difficult to find a marketing internship in the United States. Many companies are reluctant to hire an international student because it is difficult for them to get a work visa after graduating. The process to receive a work visa in the U.S. is a lottery system, so whether or not an international student can stay in America after college is all up to luck in the end. Companies are hesitant to hire international students, in fear that it will be a waste of their time and resources. 


In order to reduce these challenges Fisher offers a wide array of resources, including informational talks, networking events, and advisors and recruiters that you can chat one on one with. Nicole’s best advice for the current and future international students at Fisher is to not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Nicole says, “it might feel intimidating at first, but people most likely won’t remember what you asked ten minutes later.” Nicole also mentioned that as an international student, it is especially important to remember to take initiative and seek out support when you need it.

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