The number of international students at GW has grown 12 percent over the last five years, a figure University administrators attribute to GW’s growing reputation as an international student-friendly university.
In fall 2005, 1,833 international students enrolled at the University, according to University data, gradually increasing to reach an enrollment of 2,298 international students by fall 2009.
Greg Leonard, director of GW’s International Services Office, said he attributes the uptick in numbers to University President Steven Knapp’s emphasis on having a diverse student body, as well as government efforts to make visa policies “a little more reasonable.”
“There was a time very shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when it became very difficult to get a visa to come to the U.S.,” Leonard said. “I think that the U.S. government has made a very conscious effort to expedite the visa requests of international students who are seeking to come here.”
Out of the 2,298 international students enrolled at GW during the 2009-2010 academic year, 624 were undergraduates, 1,585 were graduate students and the remaining 89 were on leave and were not taking classes.
The top countries of origin were China, India and the Republic of Korea, with 460, 266 and 256 students coming from each nation respectively.
The rise in the number of international students at GW reflects a nationwide trend of increased foreign student enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities. In 2009, 45 percent of schools reported an increase in international student enrollment, and 26 percent reported that numbers remained stagnant, according to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Leonard said the rising number of international students enrolled at the University is a positive sign and enhances the classroom experience of every GW student.
“We will always want to have a very diverse population of students from different countries here,” Leonard said. “I think it makes our classrooms more diverse. It gives all students at GW an opportunity to learn in more of a multicultural, multinational environment.”
Freshman Gloria Wan, originally from China, said she first came to the U.S. for high school and then chose GW over other colleges for its international affairs program.
“Even when I looked at other schools, they had internships in D.C.,” Wan said. “So I thought, ‘Why don’t I just go to D.C. directly?'”
Virginie Hello, a sophomore, said she chose to study in the U.S. rather than France because the education system offers more flexibility and a balanced lifestyle.
“In France, we have a very rigid education system so when you start something at university you can’t change it,” Hello said. “At the American colleges you have a choice. There is a balance between social life and education and in France you don’t have that as much.”