International center reaches students near and far

Madalyn Banouvong, Staff Reporter

For Kim Nguyen, studying abroad at CWU meant she got to meet new friends and experience education while immersed in multiple new cultures. Although she started strong in 2017, the end of her time at university began to take a difficult turn for her and many other international students. 

Because of the pandemic, she faced tough decisions about continuing her education in the U.S. CWU has been putting forth their best efforts to help international students like Nguyen adapt to the usual concerns about studying abroad, but with added concerns about the pandemic at the forefront.

Originally from Vietnam, Nguyen came to CWU to major in public relations and Spanish. Currently, she works in the Diversity and Equity Center (DEC) and has previously been the president of the international club. She became close with many of CWU’s international students and lived on campus, often studying with them in groups at the library. This was crucial to her because, like any new college student, she felt overwhelming homesickness.

Living off campus hasn’t affected her as much as it has other international students who chose to stay in the dorms, like she had in previous years. Even though she’s been affected by the changes from her usual experience, she’s still received the same support from the resources for international students.

“The international office helped us to make sure we check our classes, student visas and legal paperwork. They go through all of that to make sure if we take online classes here or back in our countries that everything is still up to date and accepted,” Nguyen said.

Dean of International Students, Ediz Kaykayoglu, has been trying to keep students like Nguyen as in-touch with the campus as possible. In a way, he said, it’s easier than it was in the past since they have been recording events and sessions to post for students who have schedule conflicts due to school or time constraints. Also, he said, it’s been fun to integrate students who are local into the events that are made for international students.

“We do lots of events for international students, and not just for them. We have international cafés, cultural conversations, movie game nights, trivia nights, picnics. More things are virtual and give all students more opportunity to be involved,” Kaykayoglu said.

There are still a few students who are still abroad and studying so it’s important to Kaykayoglu to conjure these creative and engaging activities for them to stay connected. Social media presence has also been increased as another opportunity to help strengthen communication between the university and students.

“We implemented a new program called International Student Leadership Academy,” Kaykayoglu said. “We’ve partnered with the Center for Leadership and Community Engagement to do more virtual exchanges with other universities so we have seen some students attend that.”

It’s still been a difficult shift for many students who wanted to take the opportunity to study at college in the past year. Online classes, virtual events and clubs are changes adapted to help, but they are factors that many prospective students are taking into consideration. The rates for international applications have been dropping. 

According to, “this year, in a survey of more than 700 colleges and universities, the Institute of International Education found total international enrollment plummeted 16% between fall of 2019 and fall of 2020. Statistics on new international students was even more grim — a 43% drop. Tens of thousands have deferred enrollment.”