Home » Opinion » Opinion: Programs for Ohio State international students worth the extra fee

Opinion: Programs for Ohio State international students worth the extra fee

Last semester, I went to the program manager at Office of International Affairs with hostility and suspect asking her what the international undergraduate student surcharge is used for.

Before I went to her, I signed an online petition to accuse Ohio State of wrongfully charging this extra fee to international students.

Six months later, I am sitting in my room writing this article because I was irritated when I saw someone called the surcharge “racism” and God knows how much I want to say thank you to OIA.

Exactly two years ago, I was having a hard time trying to talk to my American classmates and I was totally sweating when I was talking to my academic adviser, whom I should not have been scared of at all.

But now I have so many American friends I have little social trouble.

Oh, I forgot to introduce myself. My name is Muyao Shen and I’m from China. I am one of the thousands of international students at OSU.

I am here not to speak if it is right or reasonable for OSU to charge us an extra fee since we are paying so much already. And I am here not to write about if OSU made the wise choice to give more and more offers to international students to earn more profits. But I am here to tell you the story how I see OIA used the money and changed my life.

To those who don’t know anything about international student surcharge, it is $500 fee paid by international students, which was passed by the Board of Trustees during the summer of 2012.

The funding provides for additional resources for international students and supplements study abroad programs.

And my story started after I had been at OSU for two semesters, when I was doubting if I made the right choice to come to the U.S.

At that time, I still couldn’t talk to my American classmates. I thought they were judging me for my accent, my face and frankly, my race.

“What is the difference between me going to a college in China and this?” I asked myself and my Chinese friends.

Things started to change when I began to participate English Conversation Partners Program, which is sponsored by international undergraduate student surcharge.

This program matches U.S. American students with international students who would like to learn more about the American language and culture. We get to hang out with one or two American students weekly and do some big events too.

My American partner is a woman who went to study abroad in China before. Every time when we hung out, we learnt so much about each other.

Though we did not end up being great friends, the key she was holding means everything to me: Americans are just like us. They are not stupid. They are not scary. They are not racists.

This key opened the door and showed me a new world.

I decided to apply to be a Global Ambassador at OIA. I didn’t know much about it but I thought I would give it a try anyway.

As a Global Ambassador, we host something called Global Engagement Night every Tuesday. It involves half domestic and half international students to engage in weekly conversations on a variety of themes. It is the place you really walk out of your comfort zone and start to know people more and more. Every time when you are at Global Engagement Night, you would hear all the weird questions without any judgments.

“Do you have four seasons in your country?”

“Why do you get an English name when you came to America?”

“Do American students treat relationships just like what they do in the movie, ‘Mean Girls?’”

“Are American really not good at calculus?”

I have had the opportunity to see so many times when someone leave Global Engagement Night with more friendships and understandings and fewer stereotypes.

And without the surcharge, we would not have Global Engagement Night.

The use of International Undergraduate Student Surcharge has been the biggest part of my college experience.

Things always get better when you start to talk.


  1. I hate to say it, but those activities offered to international students hardly cost a dime to organize. I used to be one of those English conversation partners–no money was involved. In fact, many churches, even some civic groups outside of campus host similar activities–for free. That English Conversation Partners program had existed already more than ten years ago, before the tuition hikes and surcharges. It was an all-volunteer program. I stress on “volunteer”. In fact, you were encouraged to take your foreign student partners out to experience American life, but on your own dime. Any school that thinks they need a big budget to organize something that can be done for free…needs a little scrutiny. Sorry, but you drank the kool-aid on that one, Ms. Shen.

    The bulk of that $500 is actually going toward study abroad programs, which primarily benefits American students, not international ones who are already studying abroad in America. Whoops, looks like they failed to disclose that to you!

    OIA’s job IS to open more doors to international students, as well as American students wishing to study abroad, but not through milking them financially. Much the way the office in charge of disability affairs do not charge disabled students more just so they can have their needs taken care of on campus–that is actually something that really does cost more as it requires the university to remain ADA-compliant.

  2. Well said,@Lani.

  3. hi, Lani.

    Have you ever been involved in event planning? Guessing from your comments, I guess not, because those things that you say are done for ‘free’ actually are not free — they require a budget and they require time. I’ve been working in event planning on and off for over 10 years, and every time you organize an event, you have to…

    plan the event
    advertise the event to multiple audiences
    keep track of the RSVPs
    plan a budget for the event
    organize the people involved
    transport the people involved
    organize the activities
    buy the supplies for the activities
    order food (yay!)
    arrange for payment of food
    write the reports afterwards on how the event went

    All of these things take the time and effort of someone ‘behind the scenes’, and any person who has spent time planning activities will understand the amount of time that goes into an event, no matter how ‘simple’ it seems. Thanks to the surcharge, OIA can hire staff who have time to do this planning which is benefiting students like Ms. Shen. No events are ever truly ‘free’ — someone is spending their time to organize them.

  4. Lani,

    I have to respond to your comment. According to the Director for International Students and Scholars, at least 50% of that fund goes specifically to programming and support of international students. Where did you get your information about the use of the funds?

    The Office of International Affairs does much more than plan study abroad trips. It provides academic workshops, student in-state trips, special events and on-going orientation to the United States. These programs all require lots of funding to be effective.

    You mentioned remaining ADA-compliant. The Office of International Affairs does not charge for the ongoing US Department of Homeland Security’s mandated reporting while international students are enrolled here at Ohio State.

    I invite you to tonight’s weekly OIA event, Global Engagement Night. It is a program that works to support international and domestic students through presentations and discussion. I think it will help to show you all the good OIA does for students from around the world, that would not be possible with out enough funding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.