International Students and Internationalization: Interactions between International and U.S. Students at Duke University

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Only in the past few decades have higher educational institutions initiated plans to internationalize campuses. Duke University started the process of internationalization ten years ago and has made tremendous strides. In regards to internationalization and international students, Duke has primarily focused on increasing the number of undergraduate and graduate international students, giving the outward impression of an internationalized campus but never discussing, in any report, whether interactions between U.S. and international students occur.

This silence demonstrates an assumption by Duke University administrators that an increased numbers of international students equals greater interactions, and thus automatically increasing learning for all students. The absence of discussion on interactions between international and U.S. students and subsequent learning, stemming from internationalization, led to the research question: To what extent are international students interacting with U.S. students at Duke University?

Duke international students were surveyed with a questionnaire consisting of both quantitative and qualitative questions. The data demonstrated a complicated set of variables impacting interactions including educational status, country, region, department, and involvement in extracurricular activities. Other variables included gender, number of years in program, and length of time in the United States. Furthermore, respondents often noted self-segregation, cultural differences, and lack of language proficiency as a hindrance to interactions.

Out of the data came the following conclusions: (1) undergraduate international students are, in fact, interacting with U.S. students enough so that some degree of

meaningful learning is probable; (2) international graduate students interact significantly less with U.S. students; and (3) cultural and English language proficiency levels are significant influential factors. Before this research project, little data existed on the extent to which international students interact with U.S. students on Duke’s campus. The three conclusions present a picture of the interactions that take place on campus as well as possible influencing factors


International and Comparative Education

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