President's Pages in Princeton Alumni Weekly
Undergraduates' International Experience at Princeton
November 6, 2002
Given my Canadian upbringing, it should come as no surprise that I enthusiastically endorse Princeton’s efforts to integrate an international experience into the education we offer. Whatever career paths our undergraduates may pursue, we believe—and our students tell us—that their Princeton experience is enriched by adding an international perspective. In a Princetonian article this fall Andrew O’Riordan ‘03, a history major, described his experiences studying in Santiago, Chile, last semester: “Students who studied in other countries...come back with new perspectives on Princeton.... [W]e understand why Princeton is unquestionably one of the most blessed and dynamic communities in the entire world. More importantly, we understand ourselves better.”
In recent years we have significantly expanded the academic opportunities for Princeton students to pursue their academic work abroad. The number of students participating in study abroad programs has doubled since 1993, and the selection of programs ranges throughout Europe, to China and Japan, to Australia and South Africa. We believe it is equally important to bring students from different countries to Princeton. International students are among our best qualified applicants and their secondary school preparation tends to be excellent. They most often speak more than one language and they contribute to a rich cultural diversity on campus. We now admit international students on a fully need-blind basis and, in part because of this, the number of such students has increased. In 1995 approximately 350 of our undergraduates were citizens of other countries. This year there are approximately 450, from over 65 countries. (This does not count the many other American students who have been raised or educated abroad.)
The distribution among countries may be somewhat surprising. It is not surprising that Canada ranks first with a total of 146 students, or that the second largest cohort, 25, comes from the United Kingdom, with India following at 22. But most would not guess that Korea would have an equal number. China, Romania, Turkey and Singapore all have about 12. The fact that the small island of Mauritius has 4 and Malaysia has 8 suggests that strong ties have developed over the years between the University and some of the secondary schools in those countries, and it reflects the efforts of Princeton Alumni Associations and Schools Committees outside of the U.S. We are also establishing programs with several highly selective universities that allow students to exchange places for a semester or a year. This year five students from Oxford and one student from France’s Institut d’Etudes Politiques (IEP)—two of Europe’s finest institutions—are studying here as part of exchange programs.
International students introduce us to more than unfamiliar foods and customs (although, as the highly popular International Center’s events prove, this is not a contribution to be discounted). Nathalie Casali from Amiens, France, is this year’s exchange student from IEP. As a student at one of Europe’s most distinguished grandes écoles, she followed the highly structured curriculum that the Institut offers to prepare its graduates for careers in international business, multi-national organizations or the public sector. She is taking advantage of Princeton’s liberal arts education; her courses this semester include Russian and Classical Mythology and she is bringing a distinctly European view to early American history in Professor Sean Wilentz’s “The New Nation.”
Ananya Lodaya, a third-year student in economics and finance from Pune, Manarashta, India, joined Princeton’s women’s crew as a coxswain in part because she wanted to experience first-hand the interest in sports which is so integral a part of Princeton life but unusual for women students at home. She also has been serving as this year’s president of the International Students Association of Princeton. ISAP seeks to create a close and lasting support system for international student through a special orientation program and to integrate international students into the Princeton community, but among its principal objectives is introducing other Princeton students to the international experience.
We greatly appreciate what our international students bring to Princeton and they appreciate what Princeton gives to them. Basak Yeltekin, a senior from Ankara, Turkey, says that the Princeton experience has “grown me into a whole human being.” Like the majority of international students, she intends to return home after gaining work experience here. Vicente Piedrehita ’04 plans to go home to Columbia after graduation to use the skills he is learning as an electrical engineering student to improve life in his country. His sense is that other Princeton students from Latin America have the same commitment, a commitment to put into action our informal motto, Princeton “in the Service of All Nations.”