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UMass Boston gains Chinese students

Posted by Your Town  January 15, 2013 11:32 PM

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The University of Massachusetts Boston has increased its international student population in the past decade by recruiting Chinese students, who account for approximately 40 percent of all international students at the university.

There are 1,244 total international students at the university this year, compared to 633 international students in 2008, according to Kathleen Teehan, Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management at UMass Boston. The international population has been steadily rising for the last ten years, she said.

There are 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students at UMass Boston, Teehan said.

Teehan said that in the early 2000's, the university decided it wanted to diversify its student body, which had few students from outside the United States. At the time there were 30 Chinese faculty members at UMass Boston, she said, and through their connections, the university began attracting students in China.

As China’s economy is becoming increasingly competitive, the university is gaining more Chinese students, Teehan said.

“I think that the economic climate in China is slowing a little, softening,” she said. “Students who are graduating from universities in China and going into the workforce are having a hard time finding jobs. Families who send their students to study in the US think it’s giving them an edge.”

A substantial amount of these students attend the Massachusetts International Academy in Marlborough, which was formed in part by UMass Boston, Teehan said. The program is for students who have not taken an English language proficiency examination, or have received low scores.

When accepted into the program, students are provisionally accepted into UMass Boston on the condition that they successfully complete their studies at the academy.

Jonathan Peyster, Director of Student Programs at the academy, said the Chinese consider Boston as a prestigious place to send their children to college.

“In China, when people think of Massachusetts they think of Boston – they think of education,” he said.

Peyster said the program teaches Chinese students English and fully immerses them into American culture. Chinese students are often smart enough to attend American universities, he said, but adjusting to the United States takes time.

“If you’re coming [from Asia] there is an immediate culture shock,” Peyster said. “And while I think that cultural shock is important, it is important to get your culture shock over with before you get to the university.”

The academy also prepares Chinese students for the American style of teaching by giving them a lot of homework and fewer hours in class, he said. In China, students attend school for 10 hours a day, and are expected to do all of their work in class, which is very different from the limited class time at US colleges, he said.

They also focus on teaching students to think critically, he said. In China, education is often based on rote memorization.

“You can’t underestimate the need for students to adapt to the style of education in the US,” Peyster said.

Teehan said that for the next few years, UMass Boston will be trying to recruit international students from other countries, to continue to shed its image as a local, commuter school.

“It really is part of our value system to be providing an international and global atmosphere,” she said.

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