International students explore opportunities on campus
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Minghao Li, 21, is a Chinese international student at SF State who can usually be found in the front row of his business classes with the tools of his trade close at hand.

Using only a pencil, calculator and textbook, he works meticulously to figure out the cost of a satellite. Li, a senior and double major in accounting and finance, hopes to one day work for a top international auditing firm where even the smallest mistakes are not tolerated.

"The reason you go all the way to the United States to get a degree is because you want to be more marketable," Li said.

Like Li, many foreign students choose the United States as a place to study abroad.

According to the Institute of International Education, 623,805 international students enrolled at United States' colleges and universities between 2007 and 2008.

"People think of the United States as the major country to advance their learning," said Chair of the accounting department Jiunn Huang. "Not just in accounting or business, but in any other areas."

Huang himself came to this country as a student to pursue a master's degree in management science because he said he perceived the United States as a land of opportunity.

According to SF State's Office of International Programs' (OIP) website, SF State opened its doors to 869 new international students last year. Business was the most popular field of study among them.

Statistics released by the OIP show that 56.4 percent of undergraduate international students in fall 2009 were business majors. That number increased by 1.6 percent the following semester.

For foreign students, other top majors include engineering and computer science.
International students are attracted to SF State because it offers assistance to those who need help adjusting to the rules and customs of the United States.

OIP helps with immigration issues while an on-campus English as Second Language program called American Language Institute (ALI) sharpens students' ability to communicate in English.

"When I came here I didn't speak good English so I went to ALI first," Ngan Le, a junior from Vietnam studying finance, said. "I think a lot of people went to ALI and then to SF State. They have a good ESL program here."

Besides providing international students with a support system, SF State's prime location and relatively low tuition and fees are other factors that students consider when choosing the University.

"The City, San Francisco, is more culturally dynamic. And the tuition is relatively cheaper (compared to other schools in the same area)," Li said.

Although SF State's college of business does not offer curriculum specifically tailored to international students, Huang said programs and offices that the school provides encourage international students to choose SF State as their school.

"When students come over here to learn, they learn not only the United States' accounting standard, but also international accounting standards," Huang said.

According to Huang, the knowledge international students acquire through SF State's accounting program can be applied at United States' firms or used to "bridge the gap" between their country's accounting standards and those in the United States.

Considering the market's current condition, Lee said many international students favor business as their major because they are concerned about job availability and salary issues after graduation.

"There's more job opportunity for international students because they can find jobs in their countries or in the United States," Lee said.

Because some employers must sponsor the work visas of non-citizens, companies find hiring United States' citizens a desirable alternative to paying costly fees.

Huang is optimistic, however, that top students can always find a good and reliable job with their skills regardless of their citizenship.

"I do hope that one day more companies can open up to international students so that we can compete with domestic students on an equal playing field," Li said. "After all, we went to the same classes taught by the same professors, did the same class projects, and took the same midterms and finals with local students for the past four years."

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