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International students drawn to UNG

Students from South Korea and 38 other countries are among the international students attending the University of North Georgia.

Some 185 international students will be attending the University of North Georgia (UNG) this fall, representing 39 countries and every continent except Antarctica.

Twenty-seven new international students will be taking classes on UNG's Gainesville Campus this fall and the Dahlonega Campus is expecting around 50. That almost doubles the previous number of international students, which totaled around 100 last fall, and supports UNG’s mission to help students become globally competent citizens by developing an awareness of other regions of the world.

Two UNG centers that support international students, the Center for Global Engagement (CGE) and the Center for Language Education (CLE) have seen a steady increase in interest from international students, mirroring the national trend. During the 2011-12 school year, there were more than 20 million international students enrolled in American colleges and universities, including 16,193 in Georgia, according to data from the Institute of International Education.

"You definitely are welcome here and we want to learn from you and we want you to share all of your experiences," CGE Director John Wilson told a room full of new international students during a recent orientation. "Most of all, share your wonderful backgrounds and languages and cultures with U.S. students here on campus. You're really ambassadors for your individual countries."

CLE students
Students from the Center for Language Education's intensive language
program pan for gold.

The list of countries represented reads like a United Nations roll call: Bangladesh, South Korea, China, France, Peru, Vietnam, South Africa, England, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, The Philippines, Uganda, the Bahamas, Togo, Poland, Ethiopia, Gambia, India, Korea, Ukraine, Surinam, Montenegro, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Honduras, Germany, Scotland, Wales, Pakistan, Morocco, Australia, Ecuador, Austria, Russia, Hong Kong, Sweden, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Kun An from Liaocheng University in China transferred to UNG after completing the CLE's intensive English program and hopes to complete his bachelor's degree in physics here.

"The longer I stay here, the more I like it," he said. "I feel the people here are very kind."

The English program available in the CLE helps international students improve language skills to meet the university's entrance requirements; the 15-week program is offered during fall and spring semesters through the College of Education.

"We are building this program to help foreign students learn English and American culture," said Xiaoyan Yang, a native of China who is associate director of CLE. "When students finish the advanced class, they have the confidence to be successful at UNG. They already have been to UNG classes to observe as part of the CLE program, so it eases the transition to enrolling in the university."

Students in the immersive CLE program are in classes and workshops all day, but evenings and weekends include field trips as varied as outings to nearby Amicalola Falls and the Carter Center in Atlanta.

"They're coming to us to study English, to then improve their English to stay with us at the university or to improve their prospects for future careers," said CLE Director James Badger, who also is an assistant professor of teacher education. "It is very much a two-way street. They're learning English and American culture, but they're bringing their background to our American students at UNG."

Matthew Shaftoe, a transfer student from Newcastle, England, is a member of UNG's men's soccer team who enrolled upon the recommendation of a friend. He's planning to earn a degree in exercise science.

"I've got a friend who came last year who plays for the men's soccer team. He said the university is really good and I just wanted to see the sun, compared to Newcastle, England," he said with a laugh. "I come from the city, so it's totally different living in Dahlonega."

International Students
Slaim Harras of Morocco, second from right, sits with a
group of students from France during a recent orientation for
international students.

While some of UNG's international students have plans to earn a degree here, many are exchange students planning to stay for one or two semesters.

Salim Harras, a new exchange student from Morocco, discovered UNG while searching online for programs in the United States. He's entering his fourth year studying computer science and engineering.

"The environment here is similar to the environment of my university in Morocco, so I chose to come here to get used to the United States more easily," Harras said. "It's a big university, and we have to look on the map to get from building to building, but the food is good here."

Seul Park, an exchange student from South Korea is majoring in American culture and is looking forward to eating American fast food like Taco Bell, which she enjoyed back home.

"I applied to this school because I wanted to enjoy all the American things to understand the culture better," Park said. "I wanted to experience American culture directly and make a lot of American friends."

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