Anwesha BhattacharjeeMercury Staff
Akshay HarsheMercury Staff
Two major international student organizations are struggling to handle a 33 percent increase in temporary housing requests from new students this fall, resulting in a dearth of short-term accommodation for the new students.
Joyee Gao, president of the Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, or FACSS, said their website had received more than 400 requests from incoming Chinese students for airport pick-ups and temporary housing.
Meanwhile, the Indian Students Association, or ISA, has received close to 300 similar requests for fall 2011, said computer science graduate student and ISA volunteer Lakshmikanthan Vijayaraghavam.
Since some schools had department orientations starting Aug. 16, many students arrived early in order to attend. However, most of the on- and off- campus move-in dates are in late August or September, so these students need temporary accommodation for 15 to 20 days until they can move in to their own apartments.
Jiayi Liu, Accounting & Information Management graduate student and a volunteer with FACSS, said their organization has two main ways to accommodate the new students temporarily.
“The first resource is our students from previous years who have already settled down and have an apartment,” Liu said. “The other resource (are the local churches), which have helped us a lot — they pick up students from the airport and provide temporary accommodation to the new students.”
The high demand for temporary housing keeps in line with UTD’s increasing international student enrollment. More than 1,300 international students were expected to attend the six international student orientations in August, which is a 40 percent increase over last year’s number of 959 students.
In an effort to cope with the situation, Doug Eckel, associate dean in the School of Management, asked for help with temporarily housing about 100 Chinese, Taiwanese and Indian students in an email to all faculty, staff and students on Aug. 11. Ten students and faculty members responded to the email within
day agreeing to house one student with them for a few days.
But even if the temporary housing situation is resolved with the help of a few generous individuals, the shortage of permanent housing on campus will continue as very few new international students have been able to find on-campus apartments this year.
Living off campus: Housing and safety
Officials with FACSS and ISA say they are concerned that there is not enough permanent housing on campus to accommodate the growing number of graduate students.
“The only places where our students have been able to find apartments are at Preston Road and Frankford Road — there are still some vacancies there,” Gao said. “But we cannot recommend these locations to our students because the 883 (bus route) does not go there.”
At present the university has no plans to build more graduate or upperclassman housing, said Matt Grief, assistant vice president for Student Affairs. He said his office is working together with the International Student Services Office, or ISSO, to put up a list on the ISSO website with housing locations around campus that are on the 883, 362 or 350 DART routes.
Vijayaraghavam said students are having a hard time finding off-campus apartments close to campus making it tough for the students to settle down or find on-campus jobs. Another concern that ISA has is the safety situation off campus, especially when students who don’t have cars need to take evening classes, he said.
“Students living off campus have a tough time moving around on weekends,” Vijayaraghavam said. “They cannot make use of most of the facilities the university has during weekends, especially Sundays.”
Many students who need to access facilities on campus at night walk back home to their off-campus apartments alone, which is when isolated incidents can happen, he said.
“We suggest our new students not to go out alone in the evenings and try to take the bus or to go out with other students,” Gao said.
The ISSO and UTD Police Department are working together to increase safety awareness among international students.
“We’re working with (UTD Police Chief Larry Zacharias) to provide a seminar in the fall about safety on campus,” said Cristen Casey, director of ISSO. “He comes to all of our new student orientations, he speaks to us there — we’re really encouraging students, when they have safety concerns, to report it so that he can be more aware when there are problems, and can address it in a more systematic way.”
International population growth trends
Casey and Grief agreed that despite the pressure on campus resources due to more international students, university officials are excited about the growth in enrollment at UTD.
Of the new students that are coming in, the number of Chinese students attending UTD has gone up drastically in the past couple of years, Casey said.
“In my opinion (the increase in numbers is because) the School of Management does a lot of promotion all over China,” said Liu. “They give scholarships to Chinese students and the tuition here is relatively cheaper than other universities and the living expense is less
than in other cities like New York or Chicago.”
Another reason is that the Chinese economy is booming and a lot of parents can afford to send their child abroad for higher education, Gao said. There is also a popular website — www.chasedream.com — which most students follow that provides information about how to come to the United States, she said.
More international students means more research productivity for UTD and takes the university a step closer to becoming world class, Casey said.
“There are people who go to school here who’ve never travelled outside of Texas and by being in classes with people from all around the world, they have an opportunity that’s almost like going on a foreign study trip,” Casey said. “One of UTD’s commitments is to become a world class institution that involves engaging with diverse groups of people and being able to think outside the box, and I think international students bring that to our campus.”