What’s home to some is foreign to others. Hundreds of Trojans take courses in distant lands, but for thousands more, study abroad means coming to Los Angeles. The nation’s No. 3 university for international enrollments works hard at making attending USC a good overseas study experience.
SC has made strides in sending ever more students abroad, but those participation figures pale when compared to the throng of foreign students in residence here. With 4,278 international students attending USC during the 1998-99 academic year, the university ranks third nationally in terms of foreign enrollments, not far behind top-ranked New York University and No. 2 Boston University, according to the New York-based Institute of International Education. (In 1999, USC enrolled 4,564 international students; comparative data wasn’t available from other schools at press time.)
Global name recognition and a prime location on the Pacific Rim make USC a popular educational destination among Asian students. Nearly half of all currently enrolled foreign Trojans come from just there Pacific Rim countries: Taiwan, China (including Hong Kong) and South Korea. The remaining half hail from 102 other nations. Together, they comprise 15 percent of the entire student body; almost two-thirds are in graduate programs, the vast majority of them at the School of Engineering.
Niche marketing also advances USC’s foreign appeal. Several schools offer custom-designed programs catering to international degree-seekers. The School of Policy, Planning, and Development, for example, has a Master’s in International Public Policy and Management created expressly for foreign students. The School of Dentistry’s two-year International Student Program is designed to upgrade foreign practitioners’ skills to meet U.S. standards. The USC Rossier School of Education’s International and Intercultural Education Program offers master’s and doctoral degrees for teachers in developing countries. The USC Marshall School of Business runs IBEAR – a one-year, international MBA program for mid-career students (typically, only a quarter are Americans) doing business in the Pacific Rim.
Some schools host special language and cultural immersion programs to ease their foreign students’ transition into Southern California life. Many students from non-English-speaking lands will also pass through USC’s American Language Institute (
www.usc.edu/dept/LAS/ALI). Founded in 1959, ALI provides intensive English instruction to international students while they’re concurrently enrolled in regular USC classes. Most non-English speaking students will sit for an English placement exam. About 1,200 a year wind up taking ALI classes to beef up their command of English. Another 1,000 are studying full-time in a special intensive English certificate program at the USC Language Academy.
Adding to an international-friendly ambiance, USC operates the Office of International Services (
www.usc.edu/student-affairs/OIS) to support the needs of foreign faculty, students and visiting scholars. Besides assisting with visa applications, immigration papers and tax and financial aid filings, the OIS offers professional and peer counseling, a week-long student orientation program, cross-cultural adjustment sessions and job search seminars. The Center for Excellence in Teaching, another support group based in the Provost’s Office, hosts training programs to familiarize international TAs with American classroom practices.
Socially, international students hardly flounder at USC. Under the umbrella of the International Students’ Assembly (
www-scf.usc.edu/~isa), hundreds of students from India, Malaysia, China, Iran, Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and other nations band together in thriving campus organizations. OIS also hosts a full calendar of monthly social and intellectual gatherings to promote interaction among international and American students; it publishes a monthly online newsletter too.
International students will feel even more at home here starting in fall 2001, when the first phase of the Internation-ally Themed Residential College opens on the University Park Campus. Constructed at a cost of $35 million, the 400-bed facility will bring Ameri-can and international students together in the first new residence hall to be built in nearly 20 years. Planners hope to achieve a 50:50 ratio of foreign to U.S. students – the latter hand-picked for their willingness to participate in language-immersion experiences, cultural exchange programs and community-service projects that advance global understanding and interaction.
As international Trojans leave Los Angeles to take up their lives on other continents and the opposite hemisphere, the university strives to keep the connection alive. With more than 26,000 foreign alumni, USC now operates International Offices (
www.usc.edu/info/internat_offices) in Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Besides helping USC develop an active global alumni network, these regional offices recruit qualified students, act as a liaison between parents and foreign students at USC, foster cooperative teaching and research with Pacific Rim agencies, schools and businesses, and aid international fund-raising.
“International offices are just one more way that USC is working to stay globally connected,” says International Offices director John Windler.



International students find friends and community in many places, including at the USC Language Academy.

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Related Links

USC Study Abroad Programs

USC's American Language Institute

Office of International Services

International Students' Assembly

USC's International Offices

Photograph by Greg Segal

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