The international student experience at UWT

The international student experience is one that requires students to leave their countries and homes for the pursuit of seeking a new experience abroad.

Henry Vu sips his tea as he reflects on his time as an international student at UWT. Amid collegiate life, international students have become a small percentage that make up the student body nationwide. Research done by Migration Policy Institute, found about 1.1 million international students enrolled at U.S. institutions. 

As reported by the Office of the Registrar, 4,801 students are currently enrolled at UW Tacoma. For Autumn 2022, 4.4% of those students are international students. 

International students find themselves hundreds if not thousands of miles away from home, away from a life they used to know. 

Henry Vu was an international student for two years, from 2019-2021. He came to the United States as a 19-year-old from Vietnam leaving his mother and two younger siblings back home to study health information management. 

“I felt like there was a shift of home environment and culture change to another country, but I felt a sense of relief,” said Vu.

Though experiencing a new environment was a change, the process of applying to UWT was among one of the many challenges Vu faced; writing the admission essay, looking for dorms and traveling to move in. Over seven thousand miles separate Washington state and Vietnam. Vu, at 19, was excited to be an international student, although living a life outside of home came with its challenges.

“I felt alone when I first moved in and I didn’t fit in with my roommate. It was difficult to make new friends, but once I did, everything got better,” he said, “My mom bought a house in Washington so she thought I could study here, even though she stayed in Vietnam, overall I missed my family but not my country.” 

UWT has many services to aid international students, one of them being Tea Time, in which international students and ISS staff meet to chat and have snacks while connecting with students from other countries.

Photo by Alexa Christie | Students attending UW Tea Time.

“Tea Time targets new students, to take advantage of the social opportunity to make friends and socialize with other students and staff,” said Akane Yamaguchi, Director of International Student and Scholar Services.

In efforts to make international students feel a part of American culture, UWT international students pay a one time fee of $70 to participate in excursions outside of campus. 

“We do monthly outings. Last week a group of student leaders took a group to Picha farms in Puyallup and they did a corn maze and went to the pumpkin patch,” said Yamaguchi. 

Yamaguchi describes for some students this was their first time being at a pumpkin patch. 

“It creates a sense of belonging, Tea Time, Global ambassadors, it’s an opportunity to feel connected, so they won’t miss home so much. It’s a challenging but rewarding experience,” said Yamaguchi.

International students and local students looking to make friends and connect with different cultures, Tea Time is held in GWP,  room 101 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. every Wednesday.