Ohio State Office of International Affairs in the Enarson Classroom Building. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Ohio State is ranked among the top 20 doctoral institutions for international student enrollment. The university is No. 17 in hosting the most international students, according to a new report.

The 2017 Open Doors report — an annual survey produced by the Institute of International Education in collaboration with the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs — highlights efforts made by Ohio State and other universities in serving international student populations.

There were 7,684 international students hosted by Ohio State in 2016, an 8 percent increase from the previous year. These students come from around the world, but China is the most well-represented country among Ohio State’s international community, with 4,810 students.

In total, Ohio State had 6,466 international students enrolled in 2016 and 6,412 in Autumn 2017. Hosting is defined differently than enrolled because it includes students who attend the university as part of exchange programs in addition to those enrolled for an undergraduate career.  

Ohio State hosted 7,117 and 7,121 in 2016 and 2017, respectively, according to the Open Doors report.

The Office of International Affairs and its partners have taken steps to improve the international student experience as of late, said Megan Lawther, program manager for Global Engagement, an entity in the Office of International Affairs.

“There are needs that are there for international students that are not necessarily there for domestic students,” Lawther said. “We knew that these needs were there and Ohio State has been a really strong force in international education.”

She said it’s important to understand the differences between international and domestic students while creating a dialogue between the two.

The international student population has increased from 3,440 students in Autumn 2014 to 3,691 students Autumn 2017. The domestic student population increased, as well, from 64,868 to 66,444.

International students differ socially from domestic students at Ohio State, said Roxanne Li, a first-year in studying business administration who is from Shenyang, China.

“We don’t have any social background here,” Li said. “We have to build up everything starting from when we came here.”

One effort by the Office of International Affairs is its integration programming, which features global engagement night. Every Tuesday, international and domestic students are invited to learn about and discuss topics pertaining to different cultures in an informal setting.

Other examples range from Black Friday shopping to trips across the country, Lawther said.

“We really have this underlying belief that you have to have both parties at the table,” she said, adding in a university needs both international and domestic students for international students to have a good experience.

“You have to allow our domestic students to really get a broader picture and why it’s so important to have a global mindset and to have an international experience even while you’re on campus,” she said.   

Li said international students find people of similar backgrounds to spend time with because communication is easier.

“They feel like it’s easier to communicate and hang out with those students all the time,” she said. “I try my best to be involved in the domestic student circle.”

The challenges Ohio State faces in connecting facets of its student population do not exist in a vacuum.

Other Big Ten schools including University of Michigan and Michigan State University made the top 20, as well, ranking at No. 13 and No. 16, respectively. University of Michigan hosted 8,163 international students and Michigan State University hosted 7,779 in 2017, per the report.

In 2017, the Office of International Affairs held an annual Big Ten conference dedicated to the needs of the schools’ international students, Lawther said. She said the conference is free for students to attend — the office pays for the hotel room and travel — because the student voice is necessary in its purpose.

“I think sometimes when we think of the Big Ten, we think of force and competition,” Lawther said. “[The conference] is really about some of the challenges of working with very large populations at very large state schools.”