The International Student Experience at Purdue
International students at Purdue are mostly satisfied with their experience on the West Lafayette campus. They speak highly of the quality of instruction and say their physical needs are met.* But those same students say their interactions with American students are not rewarding or longlasting.
These are some of the observations drawn from a series of focus groups and interviews conducted on Purdue's campus during the 2012-2013 academic year. Student Affairs Assessment worked with partners in the College of Liberal Arts, International Students and Scholars, and Housing and Food Services to facilitate the project. You can read the report summary and an expanded document of student quotes. The series concluded with a session in which students could present their concerns to five top Purdue administrators. You can see video summary of the Ask an Administrator session here.
The focus group series grew out of observations made from earlier survey data. We noticed that international students' responses on a wide variety of questions were nearly always lower than those of American students. We wondered if there were particular reasons for this consistent gap, and with support from the Provost's Office we launched the series of focus groups to find out.
Students told us they rely on other international students for guidance and companionship. Their reasons are pragmatic: other international students are more likely to have experiences similar to theirs and thus more likely to know the best answer. Even when American and international students are together working on a group project, they say language and culture barriers interfere. Sometimes international students feel they are pushed aside. Others feel group projects are amiable, though even they say they've never established a lasting friendship through a class project.
Global Citizenship and Social Responsibility is one of Purdue's Core Curriculum requirements. Another is Intercultural Knowledge and Effectiveness. Those concepts are open to interpretation, but surely the intention includes the ability to cooperate effectively with people of another culture in both living and learning situations. Our focus group findings suggest that that isn't happened at a high level throughout Purdue's campus, and that new efforts are needed.
* There are a few exceptions: Some vegetarian students say the dining hall selection of plain boiled vegetables isn't appetizing or nutritious. Many also say they don't get enough meeting time with academic advisors.
Purdue's Division of Student Affairs does assessment on its programs, and on learning outcomes in general. Contact Andy Zehner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 46743 to find out more.