From the Archives: The following was written by A. Lee Zeigler, former foreign student adviser, University of Hawaii, and first published in Volume XIV, No. 7 of the NAFSA Newsletter from March 15, 1963. Zeigler was president of NAFSA from 1971-2.
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While foreign student advising at the University of Hawaii involves the usual areas of finances, immigration, English proficiency, and the like, there are local factors which serve to modify or intensify individual and nationality situations. The University is the only state-supported institution of higher learning in Hawaii. More than 11,000 students are in full and part-time attendance, and 6.50 of these are from other countries. But more than 80% of the American students are of Asian or Polynesian background and approximately 90% of the foreign students are from the same areas.
It might therefore be assumed that easy adjustment and assimilation of the latter would naturally follow. This is not necessarily so, and in some instances is quite the opposite. For example, there are 125 students from Japan, the country responsible for the largest ethnic group of Americans who reside in Hawaii. The Japanese student is no novelty; there is seldom interest in having him tell about life in his country or demonstrate Japanese song and dance. The American student of Japanese ancestry is 100% American to the point of seldom knowing the language of his antecedents.
The average American undergraduate at the University of Hawaii of Japanese ancestry-or any other-operates in a narrow social pattern, often an extension of his high school activities and friendships. He is not hostile to but generally indifferent toward his Japanese peer. The frequent result: Japanese students move unnoticed on the campus and in the community; they do not easily make friends with local students, most of whom live at home (only 7% of the student body lives in dormitories); they form a Japanese campus ghetto, seldom speak English, have consequent academic difficulty, feel they are missing out on American college life without the benefit of "foreign student attention" from students and community. Parallel situations can be said to hold true for Chinese, Filipino, Okinawan, and, to a lesser extent, Korean students.
The incoming foreign student has the benefit of the University's English Language Institute which offers from full time (25 hours per week) to tutorial work in preparation for success in regular university credit courses. But the English spoken outside the classroom too often bears no resemblance to the standard version taught. The lingua franca of the locally-reared is "pidgin," an abbreviated tongue evolving from plantation days of imported Oriental labor with words of the disappearing Hawaiian language thrown in. "Hey bruddah, whassamattah?" "Da kine." "No hu hu" ("Don't get angry") are a few common examples. Undergraduates who have command of standardized English while in the classroom, revert to pidgin soon as the professor is out of earshot. In addition, the Japanese still spoken in Honolulu, brought years ago by the laboring class is quite different from that spoken by the foreign student from Tokyo. Exposure to the corrupted versions of both his newly acquired language and his native tongue may confuse and annoy the serious-minded Japanese student.
Establishment of the East-West Center two years ago, with the resulting increase in foreign student enrollment (nearly 50% of the foreign students currently enrolled are on East-West Center grants), and intense local publicity, served to make campus and community far more aware of these foreign students, with consequences favorable and otherwise. The aloha spirit of Hawaii made community hospitality easy to recruit; requests for speakers, performers, and guests from among East-West Center grantees poured in. The initial growing pains of the Center caused grantee complaints, which in turn made other students wonder why a foreign student on full maintenance from U.S. government funds-through the courtesy of U.S. taxpayers-would have anything to complain about. This attention, plus the establishment of special housing and feeding arrangements, brought about the image of an "elite," the have-nots being the local students and the foreign students not on East-West Center grants, both often forgotten by the community. It has been and will continue to be difficult to bring about campus integration with the existence of an East-West Center student core, which, though part of the University of Hawaii student body, understandably wishes to retain its own identity. Perhaps no other campus in the United States has a parallel problem.
The University of Hawaii is the only university situated between Asia and the American continent. As such it has a particular responsibility to the students who come from scattered islands throughout the Pacific. Nearly 50 students from Micronesia, Samoa, Tahiti, and Fiji are at this university to prepare for the leadership they must assume on return to their islands, which are moving toward greater autonomy in management. The lack of adequate secondary school preparation and the relaxed patterns of living make it difficult for most of these students to compete successfully with others in their classes. The temptation of one with admissions responsibility for the Pacific island applicant is to reject him for lack of the science, math, or other preparation, thus laying the burden upon those who administer the primary and secondary schools in his region. Such an attitude may pinpoint the basic need but does not help the student who requires university training now. Geography dictates that the University of Hawaii reach out to these students since it is doubtful that any other institution is more suitable for them at this time.
The Pacific islander who does learn to achieve the success at the University of Hawaii necessary to leave with a B.A. after a stay of several years, will find it difficult if not impossible to readjust to life on the remote island from which he came. Having had a healthy taste of "civilization,'' he, unlike the world-weary would-be Gauguin, may not be ready to escape from it. Another responsibility allocated to the Office of the Foreign Student Adviser at this university is the counseling of local students interested in opportunities in other countries. There is a significant lack of participation by University of Hawaii students in the many college-age travel programs which send students from other American campuses to all corners of the world. Until recently most of these activities have focused on Europe, halfway around the globe from Hawaii. The local student, more often than not, has marginal financial resources. This means his level of travel aspiration may not rise above the realm of someday getting to California, much less to another country. Before these students travel, an awareness must be created of the many opportunities for youth abroad-the summer work camps, homestays, hosteling, seminars, summer schools-what they cost, how finances can be raised, and the benefits derived. To initiate such action, a campus workshop on "Summer Opportunities for Service, Study, and Travel Abroad" was held in January, with experienced faculty speakers, student panelists, films, and displays from 20 organizations. Nearly 200 students attended and enthusiasm overflowed. But continual follow-ups will be needed to convert this enthusiasm to action, and the foreign students on campus can be influential in motivating the local students to international experiences.
This article has attempted to illustrate areas unique to the foreign student adviser in Hawaii. Every campus not only shares problems common to all FSA's but also has additional international student concerns peculiar to its own locale.
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