Encounters between Immigrant Students and U.S. Urban Universities
Maria Natalicia Rocha-Tracy
UMass Boston, Eastern Nazarene College and Boston University
Last modified: May 28, 2007
Presentation date: 06/12/2007 2:30 PM in ISCTE-II C104
Since the early 1990s, a record number of very diverse immigrant groups have entered large United States cities. In the New England region, 70% of the new immigrants are Latin Americans, many from Brazil. Many young immigrants are seeking university-level education in the region. This research reports on an investigation of the encounters of these immigrant students with local urban universities.
There are many barriers to access faced by immigrant students, such as language issues, different cultural assumptions, legal barriers for the undocumented, administrative impediments for non-citizens, and professors who lack cultural sensitivity and openness, and who use rigid pedagogical models not suitable for culturally diverse students, and difficulties in students’ finding social acceptance from peers. Immigrant students use many coping strategies to adapt and succeed in these sometimes exclusionary, foreign, or hostile university environments, including: being selective in deciding which disciplines and professors to work with, finding support and building social networks among other students who may be facing the same issues, and being aggressive in finding academic support, mentoring, and assistance from administrators, professors, and student service offices. Becoming involved in campus student organizations can also help students to become more accepted and integrated into the university environment.
The presentation is grounded in a literature review on the subject of immigrant university students in North America, and qualitative interviews of immigrant students in two Boston-area universities. The research suggests several recommendations to be made for how universities can become more accommodating and welcoming to immigrant students.