International College Students' Experience of Racial Prejudice: Encouraging Cross-Cultural Interactions Through Student Campus Involvement

International College Students' Experience of Racial Prejudice: Encouraging Cross-Cultural Interactions Through Student Campus Involvement

Clémentine Berthelemy (Aix-Marseille Université, France)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-4097-7.ch009

Abstract

This chapter intends to discuss the experiences of international college students regarding racial prejudice on campus and explore the role of student associations as a way to increase cross-cultural interactions between domestic and international students. The aim is to examine how prejudice, more specifically racial-ethnic prejudice, affects their college experience. The findings suggest that active involvement in campus activities promote interaction across cultures and reduce racial prejudice. This chapter engages qualitative individual interviews with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Nigerian, Kenyan, and Ghanaian undergraduate international students (N=31). It is believed that this method is best suited to apprehend their experiences and to fully understand how they create meaning of perceived racial prejudice. Their testimonies are presented through verbatim transcripts of the interview sessions conducted in 2014-2015, in three New York research universities. A discussion of their experiences follows and suggestions for future research conclude this chapter.
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Introduction

Because of the quality of its education, the United States has been the destination of choice for international students. Their number has nearly doubled in the last two decades and the newest data indicates a 10% increase from 2013-2014 to 2014-2015. China, India and Saudi Arabia are now the top three places of origin for international students in the U.S and represent about 53% of the total enrollment of international students in the country. In terms of geographical distribution, the states of California, New York and Texas host respectively 13.9%, 11.0% and 7.8% of the international student population in the country. The city of New York remains the top metropolitan area for international students, followed by Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago. In 2014-2015, the most popular U.S universities for international students were New York University, University of Southern California and Columbia University (Institute of International Education, 2016). Today, the top 25 universities host 22% of all international students in the United States. It is also worth noting that the international student population is growing more racially diverse as the proportion of nonwhite students went from 25.7% in 2003-2004 to 23.7% in 2013-2014 (Redden, 2015). Although the United States enrolls more international students than any other country in the world, relatively little is known about their college experience. Studies generally stress their positive influence on the overall student population.

Calleja’s study (2000) showed that American students can benefit from attending a school enrolling substantial numbers of international students. Because international students are usually more prepared and rank high, they tend to enhance the academic excellence of the colleges and universities American students attend. Moreover, international students also represent a large economic investment for American universities through the amount of money they spend on tuitions, tutoring and living expenses. In 2015, international students contributed more than $35 billion to the U.S economy. In addition, international students constitute an increasingly important source of diversity on campus. They enrich the cultural diversity of campuses with their home culture and ethnic experiences. Last but not least, international students help domestic students develop their cultural sensitivities in collaborating with people from different backgrounds. As Hammer, Bennett and Wiseman (2003) stated “as one’s experience of cultural difference become more complex and sophisticated, one’s potential competence in intercultural relationship increases” (p. 423).

Although this study acknowledges the positive effects of international students on the student population, the intent is to provide a more critical perspective of being an international student on U.S campuses. Today, nearly 40% of foreign students in the U.S report having no close American friends (Gareis, 2012). Moreover, there have been periodic reports of racist incidents and overt discrimination (Redden, 2012). Therefore, one cannot help but wonder whether the potential of international students in terms of intercultural relationships have been truly achieved on U.S campuses. While colleges and universities have created different types of programming to bring international students and American students together (such as conversation partner and buddy programs), there is reason to be concerned about how well international students are being integrated on U.S campuses.

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