The spring 2017 semester brought 65 study-abroad students and 48 exchange students to Cal State Fullerton to experience being an American student.
Exchange students come to CSUF through an exchange agreement the university has with partner universities in other countries. Semester-abroad students often go through outside agencies and are not included in an exchange agreement between CSUF and a partner school in their home country.
Although they gained a foreign college experience by attending CSUF this semester, non-degree seeking international students do not always have an easy adjustment.
Korean exchange student Hyo-ju Cheon, a junior painting major, said she chose CSUF because of the connections she looked to make with other Korean students, the art program and opportunities the location provided.
She said the hardest thing about being an exchange student was receiving the classes she wanted.
“Last semester, I really wanted to take my major. We can take 12 credits, but I only took six credits with my major,” Cheon said. “It is hard to get into my major class because it is already full, and I had no chance for waitlist.”
Before students arrive in the United States, the International Student Services (ISS) department gives international students the opportunity to submit online 10 to 12 courses they prefer to take at CSUF.
Once ISS receives these lists, the data is compiled and each college department is contacted to arrange students’ placement into courses.
“Pretty much all courses are available to them, but they are provided on a space availability, so priority goes to degree students,” said Natalie Mir, the International Student advisor at CSUF.
Korean exchange student Soo-yeon Oh, a junior film major, described her struggle to attain courses she requested.
“When I arrived here, only one class survived,” Oh said. “I was not surprised because before I came here, I found the internet and I just googled CSUF exchange and (there were) lots of posts from blogs. They said the same things.”
If they do not have enough classes to fill their schedule, the students must petition for classes when they arrive at CSUF. This consists of getting signatures from both professors and college departments in order to join the class.
“We do our best to get as many courses as we can reserved, but students will still have to go through that portion. While it is not the best at times, it is definitely better than what it used to be,” Mir said.
Even though students like Cheon and Oh are notified that CSUF “cannot guarantee the availability of classes” when they apply, exchange students still hope to get some of their preferred courses.
“It’s frustrating because I kept getting rejected,” Cheon said. “I understand but it’s hard.”
In addition to leaving space available for degree seeking students, departments have to confirm correct prerequisites have been taken.
“Chances are it’s because of the prerequisites,” said CSUF Study Abroad program assistant director Mike Roesler.
Although ISS said it attempts to help these students throughout the process, getting into classes is still stressful for international students.
“It’s really time-consuming to fix your own schedule and to go and crash all the classes and then having to be on the waitlist, and the management department doesn’t give out stamps up until after two weeks (into the semester),” said Elliot Magnusson, technology major and Swedish graduate study-abroad student.
If someone is not in any classes after petitioning to fill their schedule, Roesler and Mir said they spend extra time with them to address the issue.
For the average semester-abroad student, tuition is $5,600. For exchange students, tuition varies because they are paying the amount they would be paying for their own university. Every international student also pays $690 for health insurance.
“I’m like, ‘why am I even here? Why am I supporting this school?’ That’s the real answer,” said Emma Pettersson, a sophomore study-abroad finance major from Sweden. “We pay double the amount of tuition that the rest of you guys do, but at the same time, I understand there are certain rules that have to be followed.”
Despite the frustration of some non-degree seeking international students in getting schedules coordinated and paying high fees, they said they are grateful for the ability to study at CSUF and experience American culture.
“I like this school a lot and since I didn’t have a university back home in Sweden, I felt like I could do this,” Pettersson said.
Though Cheon misses South Korea, she said she enjoys the clean air, the Californian weather and the fact that she can see the stars at night.
“The people are so kind and friendly,” Cheon said. “When I go to school, sometimes I bump into people but they say, ‘Hey, good morning,’ even though they don’t know me.”