3 International Students & Going To College

Owen Jacobs, Samantha Kim, & Tianxin Zhang

This past quarter we decided to focus on the topic of International Students and Going to College and how concepts from class such as place and thick institutions tie into this subject. In recent years colleges across the United States have received a surge of international student applications. The University of California admissions, for example, increased by 17 percent within the last year. This is of interest to us as it’s been found that some of the aspects of these colleges that are the most attractive to international students include the school’s extracurriculars and sports (Anderson, 2022). Through interviews we conducted with friends and classmates who are studying abroad, we gained insight into what it’s like to be an international student at college, and how the university plays a large role in making that a successful experience.

One interview was with a student here at UW who is studying here from Canada. She brought up how it has been especially challenging studying abroad through the pandemic as it makes it increasingly difficult at times to travel to and from her home. However, things like sports and extracurriculars at college have helped her feel more at home here at school and ease the discomfort of being so far from her family. A lot of what was discussed in the interview as being beneficial for her falls into the definition of a thick institution. She was comforted by opportunities to meet and bond with other international students, and a lot of the shared tradition and rituals one takes part in while at college here made her feel much more connected to the school and student body as a whole.


HUB RSO Resource Center, UW | Photo Credit: Samantha Kim, CC0 1.0

This image shows the extracurricular activities available to international students and illustrates the characteristics of thick institutions. Some of the characteristics of a thick institution are the physical location of the clubs (RSOs) and the shared tasks among the members of the RSOs. For example, the RSO officers have similar jobs that work together.

We’ve seen now how the characteristics of a thick institution can help international students in the process of finding a new home at their school far from their families, but the concept of place is just as important. Throughout the quarter we’ve learned that place does mean a physical location, but also much more. It means the social impact on that location, a person’s associated feeling with the place, or how the history of that place ties into its current state. When attending school internationally, we learned during these interviews, all of these things help to make you feel a sense of community in a new setting. A shared common use of a certain place bonds the people using it, like sitting out on one of the many fields on campus on a sunny day with hundreds of other students.

The place of sport plays into the topic of international students and going to college. Sports and extracurricular activities are a way of sharing something among large groups of people, whether that be a spectator sport or extracurricular activities that all students can participate in. They are an opportunity to work with a team or group of friends against other students, sharing experiences that have emotional value to each person, which is a large aspect of a thick institution. We learned from one of the students we interviewed that it is not necessarily more important to participate in these activities as an international student, but participation can have very meaningful rewards in terms of meeting people and adjusting to a new place. For example, he often played ping pong and video games in the dorms with his friends. Activities such as these allowed him to relax outside of his competitive computer science major and cultivated within him a stronger sense of belonging. Another way to look at how sport ties into our topic is through the challenge posed.

In another interview, the interviewee mainly discussed issues about studying abroad, such as the difficulties that will be encountered in life abroad, and how to deal with it in the right state of mind. This interview will bring people a lot of reflection and views. This relates to the place of sport because, in extracurriculars and sports, one may face challenges similar to international students.


Anderson, N. (2022, April 8). Prominent colleges see international applications surging. The Washington Post. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/04/08/international-student-applications-growth-colleges/



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Stories From The Place of Sports in The University, 2022 Edition Copyright © 2022 by Students in The Place of Sports In The University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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