International Exchange Off-Campus: Foreign Students and Local Communities

Every year, more than 300,000 foreign students are enrolled in colleges and universities across the United States, yet very little is known about their contacts with the resident population. International exchanges off campus could be significant for both parties.

This study examines the amount, type, goals, and consequences of contacts between foreign students and the residents of a local community. Using the case-study approach, we have selected a town and two campuses with attributes that are not uncommon to the foreign student experience.

Several types of data on contacts between foreign students and townspeople were collected in the period from January to June 1986. A  mail survey of the foreign student population produced more than 455 responses. Ten “focus groups” were conducted, involving a total of 89 foreign students. About 50 personal interviews with foreign students, townspeople, campus staff, faculty, and American students also took place. The information so obtained allows both estimates of the extent of contacts and basic impressions of the nature of town-foreign student encounters.