November 12, 2003
In the 2003 U.S. News and World Report, Union College tied for second (14%) in the Most International Students, Comprehensive College Category for the Midwest region. U.S. News divides the country into four regions and ranks colleges based on the percentage of the total student body that is designated as international.
The rankings are based on fall 2002 enrollment. Union’s total enrollment last fall was 951, with 132 international students.
International students at Union College represent 29 countries around the world, including Peru, Canada, Indonesia, Poland, Taiwan, Chile, Korea, Brazil, Kenya, Japan, and the Czech Republic. Of the total international students each year, about half are enrolled in Union’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program. Nearly a quarter of the remaining international students are graduates of the ESL program studying for a bachelor’s degree.
“One of the main ways international students come to Union is through word of mouth,” said Peggy Wahlen, ESL program director. “Word gets around that Union is a good place to be and that we have a good program. Also, the Midwest is a real draw because we have pure American English with no accent, which is what students wanting to learn English look for. Lincoln is also known as a wonderful and safe city, which is really important to parents.”
International students have many reasons to attend Union. For Tom Randa, junior information systems major from Nakuiu, Kenya, Union’s mix of affordable, quality education, small class sizes, scholarships, and job opportunities was a draw. For Spencer Lin, who is working on a post-baccalaureate pre-med degree, Union serves as a stepping stone before medical school. Lin, a native of Taipei, Taiwan, was also drawn to Union because of its spiritual atmosphere.
Other international students come to Union simply to learn English, but find themselves staying for other reasons. Wilsi Modro, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, came to Union to learn English. Her intentions were to complete the ESL program and return to Brazil a year later. However, after graduating from the ESL program, Modro was able to stay and study business.
Modro also plays a vital role in Union College’s admissions department. Beginning as a temporary Portuguese translator, she now works 20 hours a week as a liaison for international students interested in attending Union.
“I really love this place,” Modro said, “but mainly the people. Being away from home has been hard, but I feel accepted and loved. Union College has become my second family.”
“Diversity is a valuable part of any meaningful educational experience,” said Dr. David Smith, Union College president. “Our international students enrich the learning of all our students by bringing us their language and cultural traditions. We are grateful for what they teach us and for the diversity they provide.”