Category Archives: Undergrad Experience

Surge of Foreign College Students in SD, Nationwide


Yanran Xiong, 22, from Guiyang City in China has been in the U.S. for close to 4-years now as she finishes up her communications degree at USD. Currently she serves as the vice-president of the International Student Organization. — Nelvin C. Cepeda


The San Diego Union Tribune -Aryaman Madireddy always knew he wanted to leave his native India to study abroad. That day came in August, when the 18-year-old arrived at the University of San Diego.

An avid sailor with an interest in business, it seemed like a fitting choice.

“The University of San Diego is supposed to have one of the best business schools in the world, so this was a very good decision,” he said. “It’s been a very welcoming experience.”

Madireddy is part of a growing pool of foreign students enrolled in San Diego colleges and universities, drawn largely by the relaxing lifestyle and the promise of a first-rate education.

It mirrors a nationwide trend, with the number of international students reaching a record high in recent years.

Universities are eager to welcome these students, with many sending staffers overseas to recruit applicants. School officials say international students add new perspective and diversity to the student body, while bringing in significant revenue.

An estimated 886,000 international students studied at U.S. colleges and universities in the 2013-2014 school year, an 8 percent increase over the previous school year, according to the Institute of International Education. About half of the students hail from China, India and South Korea, according to the group.

Mariam Assefa, executive director of World Education Services, said the growing number of international students corresponds with economic growth in developing countries.

“In the emerging economies in countries such as China, there is a growing middle class that is pretty ambitious when it comes to its young people. People believe there is value in sending their kids to study abroad,” Assefa said. “The U.S. has the strongest reputation when it comes to our education system. American universities are considered to be the best.”

Assefa said California is particularly popular, with the state hosting the largest number of foreign students each year. They contributed $4 million to the state’s economy in the 2013-2014 academic year, according to the Association of International Educators.

Enrollment data from the University of San Diego, San Diego State University and UC San Diego show the number of international students has skyrocketed in the past five years, a pattern that’s likely to continue as universities ramp up recruiting efforts.

International student enrollment

Enrolled at the University of San Diego

Enrolled at San Diego State University

Enrolled at UC San Diego






An estimated 2,755 foreign students — both graduate and undergraduate — enrolled at San Diego State University this fall, an increase of nearly 400 enrollments since last year. The school’s foreign population has grown by about 1,200 since 2010.

At the University of San Diego, 621 foreign students enrolled this fall, compared with 611 in 2014 and 400 in 2010. The tally includes undergraduate, graduate and law school students.

Leading the trend locally is UC San Diego, which enrolled 3,379 foreign undergraduate students alone last fall, a 23 percent jump from the previous year and a nearly 75 percent increase from the fall of 2010.

The climb in international students in recent years is likely a result of UC San Diego’s long-term plan to diversify the campus. The school had previously aimed to have 18 percent of its undergraduates be nonresident students — both out-of-state and international — by 2025.

It’s surpassed that goal, with nonresident students accounting for 20 percent of undergraduates, according to a school spokeswoman.

The strategy to internationalize the student body is used in most schools within the University of California system as a way to bolster revenue, particularly as public funding shrinks.

At UC San Diego, for example, an undergraduate California resident who lives on campus would pay $31,365 in tuition and expenses, while a nonresident would pay $56,073.

Bradley Moon, director of international recruitment at SDSU, said the school participates in a number of recruitment fairs around the world. An SDSU representative recently spent two weeks in India visiting high schools. Another is preparing to leave for a three-week recruiting trip to Hong Kong.

“We have world-class education offerings, especially in San Diego. Our schools are known globally. I think that that’s something that we have to our advantage,” Moon said. “As we all move up in rankings and our research is recognized globally, I think that gets a lot of attention.”

Though foreign students aren’t offered any financial incentives to enroll — they’re required to pay full tuition at most U.S. universities — Moon said the allure of studying at a reputable school in a desirable location is enough to draw a large number of students.

“It’s a huge industry,” he said. “Universities worldwide are clamoring to increase their international footprint.”

Critics, however, worry the trend will push out qualified local high school students. They also argue that domestic students are much likelier to remain in the United States upon graduation, contributing to the workforce and in taxes.

Madireddy, a freshman at USD, is an undeclared major but plans to study business administration, a subject that sparked his interest in high school. His father is a pharmaceutical entrepreneur in India.

He traveled to the U.S. on an F-1 visa, issued to international students who enroll full-time in an academic, language-training or vocational program culminating in a degree. M-1 visas are available to foreign nationals who wish to pursue programs in vocational or other certified non-academic schools.

There are 1 million international students in the U.S. under F-1 and M-1 visas, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

For USD senior Yanran Xiong of China, the city’s relaxed culture played a significant role in choosing the university.

Xiong, 22, said it was important for her to attend a school where she could get an exceptional education, but equally important to live in an environment where she could feel at ease.

“The life’s pace in larger cities is really fast, everyone is always walking so fast. I don’t like that. San Diego is such a relaxing city. You can always find a way to relax yourself after school,” she said.

By Tatiana Sanchez


Cross-cultural learning: one Saudi student’s experience at USD and beyond

Name: Metaeb Alohali

Country: Saudi Arabia

Major: Electrical Engineering

Languages: English, Arabic


I am Metaeb Alohali (far right above photo) from Saudi Arabia. I study Electrical Engineering and am in my junior year. I chose USD because I have always dreamed to come to San Diego when I was in high school. Two of my uncles have studied in the 80’s in San Diego, and from what I heard from them, it is heaven on earth. When I looked at the schools in San Diego, USD was my first option. I choose my major because I have always been passionate about math and sciences, and thankfully I still enjoy it. Since I entered USD, my social life has changed in several aspects. First, I get to meet people from all over the world and become friends with them. Having diverse friends made me think differently and better understand different cultures and religions. Second, I enjoyed joining the executive board members of the Muslim Students Association, Saudi Students Association, and the club of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers also known as IEEE.

Last semester, Fall 2014, the OISS at USD hosted the “A is for Arab”, a traveling exhibit that examines stereotypes about Muslims and Arabs in pop culture. The brilliant guest speaker Dr. Mietek Boduszynski (far left in above photo), a political science professor at Pomona College and former US diplomat in Albania, Kosovo, Japan, Egypt, and Libya, was invited to make the key-note speech. What made Dr. Boduszynski’s experience so special was that was in the Middle East during the Arab Spring; moreover, he was assigned to Libya when the tragic assassination of the US ambassador to Libya happened. At the exhibit Dr. Boduszynski spoke about his experience, some facts about the Arab world and clarified some of the wide spread stereotypes about the Arabs. After his speech, I had a great chance to chat with him and he asked my Arab friends and me to meet personally with his students at Pomona as part of his Middle Eastern Affairs class.

We visited his class in March and I made sure to choose a diverse group of students to go there, so that his students would hear different experiences and political views. Jamal Jamal from Kuwait (Muslim-Shia), Huda Kahin from Somaliland (Muslim-Sunni), and myself (Muslim-Sunni). Jamal and I first began speaking about our countries and the Arab Spring for about 10 minutes. Then, the students started asking all of us questions about politics, religion, culture, and so on. They asked smart and deep questions that indicate they have a very good knowledge about the Middle East. The students seemed very eager to meet Middle-Eastern students and get a personal view about the Middle East. Students asked questions about the current political events in Saudi Arabia and the region and our views about them. They also asked how we view our conservative culture and whether we agree with it or not. They had a little misconception between our conventions  and the governmental rules in Saudi Arabia; for example, they asked why every Saudi girl that studies abroad has to have her brother or father with her. The reason is not because their families won’t let them, but because the government won’t give them scholarships.

It was a really great opportunity to go there and speak about my country and answer questions they thought were taboo about religion, culture, and the government. I was told that there are no Saudi students in Pomona College, so for some of the students I was the first Saudi they ever met which made me feel honored.

Studying abroad in US for me is a really good chance to learn about the American culture in particular and other cultures in general. Though, to me, studying abroad alone is not enough to get a good knowledge about a certain culture, it’s also important to make friends with people from different backgrounds and hang out with them. Since I came to the US, I learned so much about different cultures and eliminated the stereotypes I had. Also, engaging with different people makes me more open-minded to try diverse habits and behaviors that are not in my culture. Fortunately at USD, I rarely find stereotypes about Saudi’s. The majority of people I met at USD are well educated and have knowledge about the outside world. Another factor is there a lot of Saudi students who study at USD which made it easier for me to introduce or clarify things about my culture. Also, San Diego is an open and diverse city, therefore, the community is less vulnerable to believe stereotypes that are spread in the media and often discriminate against Arabs and Muslims. All in all, I will never be able to explain my experience in the US in couple of hundred words, but it is absolutely a joyful and successful part of my life that I will never forget.

-Metaeb Alohali