Lu Han and Jing Zhao are both from China now studying at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Stella M. Chávez

Lu Han and Jing Zhao are both from China now studying at the University of Texas at Dallas.

There are more foreign students in the U.S. than ever before. Texas ranks third in the nation. That’s according to the latest Open Doors Report released Monday by the nonprofit Institute of International Education. The University of Texas at Dallas has the third-highest number of international students in the state. KERA visited the campus to hear from students who’ve made the decision to leave their home country in search of a higher education.

The KERA Radio story

Shail Karia, age 19, sits on a couch working on his laptop in the Student Union at the University of Texas at Dallas. Nearby, students taking a break from studying play ping pong and pool. Karia arrived from Calcutta, India just in time for the fall semester. The school’s computer science program and the flexibility of an American school are what drew him to the U.S.

“In a typical Indian college, I wouldn’t be able to change my major once I selected it,” Karia said. “I’d have to pursue it for the next four years of my life whether I like it or not.”

There are more students from China and India at UT Dallas than any other country. Nationwide, a record 819,644 international students now study in the U.S., up 7 percent in the 2012-13 school year. The number of American students who study abroad also increased, up 3 percent to more than 283,000. The country that saw the biggest jump in the number of student coming to the U.S.? China.

That’s also the case at UT Dallas, said Cristen Casey, Director of International Student Services. Chinese student enrollment there has jumped more than 40 percent since 2011 and 145 percent since 2010, from 791 to 1,890 students.

“Many people attribute some of the Chinese student growth to the one-child policy that there is more money in China now, and families have one child in which to invest their money and so they’re often sending students to the United States.”

For foreign students who’ve never visited the U.S., going to school here can be a bit of a culture shock. Schools like UT Dallas try to make the transition a little easier. The school hosts English conversation hours, dance parties and …

“American culture workshops where we teach about American Football and how to make friends, you know those things that you don’t realize are unique to the United States, but for our international students, they’re leaning a whole host of things,” Casey said.

Jing Zhao, who’s 23, arrived from southern China 10 months ago. She’s a graduate student in the International Management Studies program. She says she likes the social environment. She speaks English, but says not as well as some of her peers.

Last semester Zhao got involved with a church group where she made some new friends. And this fall, she got a job working in the Student Union. Like any college student, she says, it’s about feeling as if you belong.

“When I hang out with American friends, sometimes they talk really fast and they speak things that I never understand, and then I don’t get the jokes so it’s hard to fit in,” she said.

You can read the complete Open Doors Report here.

Below are the top 10 sending countries for UT Dallas for fall 2012.

Enrolled only

Optional Practical Training*

Total

China

1641

249

1890

India

1417

558

1975

Korea, Republic of

199

25

224

Taiwan

174

74

248

Vietnam

111

12

123

Mexico

61

5

66

Iran

60

5

65

Turkey

59

2

61

Bangladesh

49

8

57

Nepal

39

10

49

*Note: Optional Practical Training (OPT) is a post-graduation F-1 international student employment benefit. Because students with OPT work authorization remain sponsored by the university, and subject to federal reporting, they are therefore included by IIE in the annual Open Doors report numbers.