From the Archives: The following was written by Paul A. Kuehner, registrar and foreign student adviser, Lincoln University, and first published in Volume XII, No. 7 of the NAFSA Newsletter from March 15, 1961.

Find more selections from NAFSA's history on the From the Archives page

Lincoln University, located at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania, has an enrollment of 380 students, with 43 foreign students of whom 21 are from Africa, and hence many of the leaders in that continent, especially in West Africa, are Lincoln University graduates. May I mention a few of them: Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of Ghana; Nnamdi Azikwe, the first Governor-General of Nigeria; Dr. Kalu Ezera, Lecturer in economics in the University of Ibadan, Nigeria; Dr. William Fitzjohn, Education Attache of the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.

The distribution of our foreign students countries of origin is as follows: Belgian Congo 1; Uganda 1; Nigeria 15 ; Sierra Leone 4; Kenya 3; Ghana 1; Tanganyika 1; Liberia 1; Jordan 2; China 1; India 1; Greece 1; British Guiana 2; Bermuda 2; Indonesia 1; British West Indies 6. AII of them are male, and their age ranges from 19 to 31 years, hence they are somewhat older than our American students. The majority of them take their work in Social Science, especially in Economics and Political Science; a few in Natural Science; and almost none in the Humanities. Almost all of them go on to graduate or professional school to complete at least the M.A. degree. They are ambitious and persistent, and pursue their work with great determination.

The usual orientation program in September for all entering students lasts from Thursday afternoon to the following Tuesday. This program is rather sufficient for the American student, but in some ways does not meet the needs of the African student who comes from an entirely different educational system and hence needs special briefing. To bridge the gap for the African student, I have at least one interview with each one, prior to registration if possible, and preferably in the presence of a previously enrolled African. I question him in detail about his previous educational experience, and take notes while doing so. I then try to point out to him the chief differences between the two educational systems, especially the semester hour system, requirements for graduation, lectures, examinations, grades, etc. I have spent many hours doing this kind of work, but pays off. In subsequent conversations with these students I often refer to the notes which I took at the first interview, which proves to be of great help.

The former student who has listened to, and perhaps participated in this conversation, is then asked to discuss these matters further with the new arrival, and if any questions arise, to return to the office. This student thus becomes a counselor to the new arrival, and since they probably have the same, or similar educational background, they understand each other better. I firmly believe that the most effective orientation happens in the dormitories in informal sessions.

There are two factors which assist us in the orientation of African students, i.e., a close campus community and home hospitality. Our campus has a rural and rather isolated setting and the majority of our students live on the campus; the same is true of the faculty. It is a real campus community. There is no need for inter-office memos, since our offices are directly adjacent to one another and any time I need the advice of a colleague, it is easily and readily obtainable.

As for home hospitality, it is simply something that grew by itself, with no effort on our part. Our foreign students are invited, one and all, for weekends by the members of several churches in the vicinity; Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, the local Friends Meeting, private families, and other groups apparently vie with each other to make feel at home. Faculty members likewise are willing to open their homes to them and to entertain them. This has considerably lessened our task with our overseas students who are, on the whole, a well-adjusted group of people.

We have our problems, of course, and the more serious ones are finances, and occasionally academic background and knowledge of English. Sometimes a student will report with almost no financial resources, which may mean some difficult decisions by the administration, although so far we have never sent a student away without giving him a trial period of one semester or one year. If at the end of that period the student shows promise, we may be able to continue him since we often receive funds for such students or we use our own funds. Sometimes we can find a school which will assume financial responsibility.

It is a more difficult situation if a student is dropped for poor scholarship, especially in the case of the African students, since they lose their status at home if they have to return without a degree. Occasionally we are able to transfer them to a school where they may eventually succeed, but for some there is no solution.

We seldom receive students with inadequate educational background. Deficiency in English is more common. If such a student fails in his first semester or year, and that failure was caused largely by this deficiency, we consider it only fair to delete these failures, but each case is handled on its own merits.

Because of differences in cultural backgrounds there are some difficulties between American and African students, perhaps the American student would rather not have an African roommate, and vice versa. It would be going too far to call it friction; it is simply the absence of cordial relations.

In conclusion, I wish to make two points which I consider important. First, we treat our African students in a different manner only to the extent absolutely necessary. For the rest, they are students like the others and are expected to live by the same rules. Secondly, I believe it of great importance for a foreign student adviser to have some first-hand knowledge of at least one country outside the United States, especially the educational system.

Find more selections from NAFSA's history on the From the Archives page