Marine Hayashi, from Japan, enjoyed life as an international student at American University in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Pete Musto/VOA)
When Marine Hayashi first arrived at American University in 2013, she was a little afraid.
“I got homesick and I cried almost every day when I was in freshman year. And also, since English is my second language … I worked very hard.”
Hayashi is originally from Hokkaido in the north of Japan. After three years at an international high school, she decided to attend a university in the U.S. Also, both of her parents earned graduate degrees from universities in the U.S.
It was not long before Hayashi started enjoying her life as an international student. Joining three student groups helped her make friends from the U.S. and other countries.
Hayashi will graduate in 2016 with a four-year degree in Communication Studies. Her university experience is different from that of many young people around the world, though. Hayashi’s parents are paying for all of her tuition.
The cost of an undergraduate degree program as an international student at American University is $61,157 a year.
“My parents said, like, ‘Do whatever you want.’ So they supported me, always.”
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, or HSBC, is an international banking company. The HSBC released a study in 2014 of the average university tuition and cost of living for international students.
The study showed the average cost for international students in the U.S. is $36,564 a year.
The Institute of International Education, or IIE, is an organization that studies and supports international student exchange. Together with the U.S. Department of State, IIE releases a report every year called Open Doors. Open Doors collects information about international students studying in the U.S.
The 2015 Open Doors report shows 65 percent of funding for all international students comes from the students or their families.
However, not all international students have enough money to pay full tuition. Many international students are finding other ways to pay the high cost. Some students avoid the cost completely.
The 2015 Open Doors report shows that 21 percent of funding for international students comes from U.S. universities. This funding comes in the form of financial aid. Financial aid is money that is given or loaned to students to help pay for their education.
Students usually ask for financial aid when they first apply to a university. Most universities decide which students receive financial aid based on students’ academic history.
Some U.S. universities are seeking to help international students in an active way, though. Bryan Holzer is the International Admissions Counselor for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. His job is finding students whom he believes will succeed at his school and help make it better.
International Admissions Counselor Bryan Holzer guides students in the admissions process for University of Wisconsin-River Falls
“Many international students think that the admissions process is very complicated, but actually it is very [simple] and easy,” Holzer told VOA. “Many students have an interest in studying in the U.S. but may not [know]… [of everything] available to them.”
So far, Holzer has travelled to almost 80 countries, including Brazil, Vietnam, Singapore and Taiwan. During his travels, he visits high schools and university partners. He guides students through the process of how to apply to the University of Wisconsin–River Falls.
Holzer also explains how the university can help the students.
The cost for international students at most U.S. universities is higher than it is for citizens. The yearly tuition at University of Wisconsin–River Falls for international students is $22,000. This is the same tuition rate for students who are citizens from states other than Wisconsin.
Also, international students immediately receive $2,000 a year in financial aid once the university accepts them. Students who perform well academically can receive up to $4,000 after their first year.
The number of U.S. universities with international admissions counselors is growing. Holzer said the best part of his job is sharing his home with world and bringing the world to his home.
A few universities accept students for free, though. Five universities in the U.S. are considered “need-blind” for international students. A need-blind university is one that will accept a student even if the student does not have enough money to pay.
These five need-blind universities are Amherst College, Harvard College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University and Yale University.
In 2015, 37,307 students applied to study at Harvard. Harvard accepted only 2,081 students. Of new students, 12.2 percent are international students.
Sally Donahue is the Griffin Director of Financial Aid and Senior Admissions Officer at Harvard College. She told VOA that almost 60 percent of Harvard students receive financial aid. How much money students receive depends completely on how much money they need.
“We meet the full demonstrated need of all accepted students and all of our financial aid is based on need.” she said. “Families with incomes below $65,000… are not expected to [give money].”
Studying in a country that is not your own country can be difficult. Life can be lonely and the cost may be high. But Hayashi says that the experience is worth it.
“So I went through a lot of hardships… like cultural differences or like homesick but… that made me strong. So yeah, I think it’s worth it.”
She said if she has children she would like to send them to a university in the U.S., too.
By PETE MUSTO