BYU foreign enrollment grows, national level drops

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    By Andrea Fazzini

    With 35 cents in his pocket, some broken English and great determination and faith, Enoc Flores, made the move from his native Mexico to BYU 41 years ago.

    Flores is now the Director of International Services at BYU.

    Many international students make a similar journey to BYU each semester.

    However, a recent study by ?Open Doors? issued by the Institute of International Education has shown the international student enrollment in United States universities has plummeted 28 percent within the past year. This is the first time in three decades that undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral programs have dropped.

    As a necessary economical contributor to American schools, International student enrollment brings in about $13 billion a year. Since 9-11, enrollment has been in constant decline.

    BYU, however, has defied odds and managed to increase student enrollment.

    ?The reason for the nationwide decline is other universities have to fight to recruit international students,? Flores said. ?We don?t have to.?

    Each year there is approximately a 200-student increase at BYU. In fall 2002, 2,128 international students were enrolled. By fall 2004, enrollment had grown to 2,517.

    Flores believes that much of the success is due to missionaries serving throughout the world.

    ?Our missionaries worldwide recruit for us,? he said.

    Asians make up the largest population of international students with approximately 350 enrolled. Latin Americans are in a close second with about 280 enrolled.

    Jiyoung Cha, president of the Korean Student Association, has noticed about a 50 percent increase in the club as well.

    ?I truly hope that more international students can get involved in ethnic clubs at BYU to help them adjust to their classes and the atmosphere here,? Cha said

    Learning the language and adapting to the culture can make it difficult for international students, however, most ethnic clubs speak in their native language at meetings and it helps the international students to adapt faster and better.

    Sergio A. Martinez, president of Mexican Student Association, came to BYU four years ago.

    It has always been a dream for Martinez to come to BYU, however he didn?t always see it as a tangible reality.

    A lack of proficiency with the language is not the only hurdle international students may be faced with.

    There is no financial aid for international students except for academic scholarships. After a year of living in Utah, an international student can then apply for a grant.

    Approximately 1,900 international students at BYU work. Balancing work and school can be a struggle, but Martinez feels like his experience at BYU has been a dream come true.

    Martinez also said he feels that international students have the opportunity to get involved in leadership positions and help shape the future of BYU.

    ?Sometimes the westernized media sensationalizes or diminishes places or countries outside of the United States by portraying very uneducated, undeveloped, and poor communities,? Martinez said. ?However, BYU students have the opportunity to establish relationships with international students and have a true perspective of the world.?

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