The Foreign Service Journal, June 2005

D IP K IDS F ILL V OID AT U.S. C OLLEGES A MERICAN UNIVERSITIES ARE INCREASINGLY LOOKING TO YOUTH WHO GREW UP OVERSEAS TO MAINTAIN THE INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE INSIDE THEIR CLASSROOMS . B Y A NTJE S CHIFFLER S CHOOLS S UPPLEMENT 90 F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / J U N E 2 0 0 5 he number of international students at U.S. universities decreased by 2.4 per- cent in the fall of 2003, ending a period of continuous growth, according to a recent study by the Institute of Inter- national Education. Undergraduate enrollment dropped by a troubling 5 percent, though enrollment at graduate schools rose by 5 percent, the institute found. Experts attribute the drop in undergrad enrollment to real and perceived difficulties in obtaining visas, as well as to rising tuition costs and enhanced recruitment efforts by other English-speaking countries. Confronted with this trend, American universities are now eyeing another group to maintain the international perspective inside the classroom: Third Culture Kids, also known as Global Nomads. TCKs and GNs are students who spent a significant part of their childhood abroad due to their parents’ professions. They are a diverse group that includes children of diplomats, businesspeople, missionar- ies, international aid workers and military personnel, among many others. There were already clubs on many U.S. campuses to support the needs of this population, but now admissions and international student offices are enhancing their efforts to identify them and address their special needs — and to recruit them for admission. For the 2004-2005 academic year, American University in Washington, D.C., experienced a drop of 14 percent in total international student enrollment compared with the previous year, says Fanta Aw, AU’s director of international student services. Part of the shortfall stems from the dis- continuation of an “English as a Second Language” pro- gram, but visa problems and cost constraints have also made numbers tumble. “Global Nomads can help fill that void in the classroom because they offer a different perspective,” Aw notes. At AU, a GN program aims to give this community a place to meet each other and share their experiences of living abroad; it also aims to educate academic advisers, profes- sors and other students about them. The GN community also successfully pushed the admissions department to include a question on the application to help identify inter- nationally-raised kids. Third Culture Kids, who are used to transition and a mobile lifestyle, on average attend three universities during their undergraduate careers. This makes retention efforts essential. Aw, who grew up in several countries herself, first became aware of the need to extend international student services to certain American passport-holders several years ago, when the parents of some American students came to her office and said they were concerned that their kids wouldn’t adjust to life in the United States. Bringing Diversity into the Classroom Identifying TCKs and GNs through an extra line on the application form has been standard practice at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., for four years; efforts to identify the community already on campus date back to the early 1990s. As a result, the number of TCKs on campus is about 100, two-thirds of whom hold an American passport. By contrast, international student enrollment dropped from 116 students in 2002 to 96 in 2003, and down to 83 in the fall of 2004. Last year the international programs office at L&C designed a brochure targeted at TCKs that is used for recruiting freshmen from international schools, mainly in Asia, Director of International Student Services Greg Cald- well says. “It’s almost as if they have their own expat cul- ture,” he observes. “They have much more in common with each other than with other Americans.” Antje Schiffler is a journalist in Frankfurt. T Continued on page 92