International Programs seek more diversity

By Chikako Murakawa - Staff Reporters

Highline has many students from Asia and now it wants more students from Europe and Africa.

There are 557 international students in Highline College this quarter. Most of them come from China (172), Japan (146) and Vietnam (82) with additional representatives from other countries such as Cambodia, Mexico and Kenya.

The goal is to not only maintain the college's diversity, but to grow and diversify the student body even more.

Christian Villasenor is the manager for recruiting international students. He recently went to Sweden and South Korea to recruit new students. Now he is going to six more countries such as Denmark, Norway and Hong Kong, among others. 

He will travel 51,188 miles this year to recruit international students, he said. This is more than twice the circumference of the Earth. He is going to travel to recruit at least five more times this year.

Among the assets that make Highline a popular destination, he said, is that Washington state has many fun places, businesses and beautiful views.

But even with those assets, attracting new students has become harder after the election because of President Donald Trump's positions on foreign peoples.

It is having a big impact on recruiting, Villasenor said.

For many international students, the benefit of studying in America instead of staying in their home countries is the opportunity to get higher paying jobs and have a greater knowledge of the world and diversity, said Michael Pham, Highline vice president of Administration who recently returned from a recruiting trip to Vietnam.

America is one of the top countries for business careers, making it a major educational destination for international students, he said.

Beside the long-term benefit for international students in getting an associate degree at Highline, they have the option of transferring to a university.

Another benefit of studying in America is the opportunity to volunteer and possibly an internship. International students can also go back to their countries and continue to study there.

Although there are many advantages in getting an education in America, physically getting to schools such as Highline can be a difficult task.

Highline offers a conditional letter of acceptance. Once offered, it is up to the student to satisfy the necessary visa requirements.

Many international students find it easy to get a student  visa to study in America, especially those from Japan. Yet, international students who come from other parts of Asia, such as Vietnam and Myanmar, find it hard to get a visa to study abroad in America. 

Some students need to apply over and over again. 

Once here, though, Highline offers good support for foreign students through programs such as International Student Programs and International Leadership Student Council, said several students. 

Also, there are a lot opportunities to socialize and have fun on weekends, such as BBQs and trips.

"Highline has one of the best international student programs in Washington state," said Narith Ning, a,student from Cambodia. "They take care of a lot of international students — more than other schools."

International students taking classes here often prefer to major in business, engineering or hospitality, especially hospitality because Highline has a good program.

The Hospitality Program has some trips and eight kinds of internships involving hotel and resort operations. 

"I want students to get meaningful connection and to have the skills they really need to work, such as  an accounting and finance in hospitality major," said Justin Taillon, a professor of hospitality.

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