For most high school grads, it’s easy to imagine packing up and moving to a different city. A new school in a new location is an opportunity to start fresh, make different friends, and take control of your education. It’s harder, however, to imagine packing up and going to college in a city with a different language and culture.
International students study in America at all levels – particularly in high school, undergraduate colleges, and graduate schools. Some say they’ve always planned on studying in the United States and many arrive planning to study business.
Over 800,000 international students arrived for the 2012-2013 academic year, and though they only make up about 4% of all students in the U.S., their presence in business schools is stronger. At top undergraduate programs, like those at Wharton, Emory, and UC-Berkeley, they account for nearly one-fourth of all students.
Jiaxin Lin came to the U.S. from China as a high schooler, hoping to perfect her English before taking the SATs. She currently studies accounting and finance at Boston University, and though she says Hong Kong and Shanghai are financial centers as well, she came here because Wall Street is the place to break into finance.
Jose de la Puente moved from Ecuador to study business at Boston University as well because he believed higher education in his hometown would be limited to things and people he already knew. He wanted to gain independence and new experiences.
Shivani Mayani moved later in her educational career. She hails from India, and came to the U.S. to earn her master’s in finance at Temple University. Now on her second graduate degree – an MBA from the University of Maryland – she says that while undergraduate education in India was everything she wanted, she felt like her options would be limited as a graduate student and that a degree from an American university would hold more sway in the job market.
Here are their stories:
Jiaxin Lin, Boston University School of Management
Jiaxin Lin of China is a rising junior at the Boston University School of Management, which at 27% international students, has one of the highest international populations among business schools.. She is getting her bachelor’s degree in business administration and concentrating on accounting and finance.
However, studying at BU was not her first experience in the United States. She moved to Hawaii halfway through high school in 2010 in an effort to improve her English and learn about American culture before going to college.
“I’d always wanted to study abroad, but in China we don’t really study for the SAT or take AP classes or anything like that, so I dropped out of high school to study on my own. A lot of people do that if they’re going to study abroad in the U.S, because the things we learn are just very different. So I was on my own and studying for the SAT, but I found it extremely hard. My uncle, who lives in Hawaii, came to visit, and he heard that I was frustrated because my SAT scores weren’t improving. At that point I couldn’t got back to the Chinese school anymore, so he suggested that I go to Hawaii for high school and take a couple years to learn English. So I thought, ‘Yeah, what a good idea,’ because Hawaii is such a beautiful place.”
In Hawaii, Lin went to an all-girls Catholic high school, which she said was a huge culture shock – not just because the school was single gender and religiously affiliated, but also because the school day ended at 2 p.m. “The first day, I remember all my friends were packing up their bags, and I was like ‘Where are you going?’ They said we were done with school, and I was sitting there thinking to myself: ‘Oh my god, it’s only 2 p.m. What should I do with myself?’”
Lin says that Chinese education gets very intense in high school. Students finish school at 6 p.m., break for dinner, and then return for a mandatory study hall, which runs until 11 p.m. “I didn’t know what to do when we got out at 2 p.m., so I joined the marching band,” she says.
As for learning English and preparing for the SAT, living in Hawaii successfully helped her improve her scores. “There was only one other international student at my high school, and she was Korean, so we could only speak to each other in English anyway. Everyone else was local, and my cousins don’t really speak Chinese, so both at home and in school I was in a very good position to learn English.”
Hawaii was definitely a turning point for her, but she says when it came time to apply to colleges, she only applied to schools on the East Coast. “All my friends who applied to college stayed in Hawaii or went to the West Coast, but I wanted to try something different. When I first got to BU, I thought I would be the only Chinese student who was studying abroad, but I was completely wrong. Most of my friends also studied abroad while in high school – some for even longer than me. There are a lot of agencies in China that help people apply to colleges and high schools in the U.S.”