Classes at the University of Montana started Monday for several hundred international freshmen, and while there were no logic, history or literature lessons the day included talks on compliance, visits to the health center and tests in English proficiency.

“English is the international language for business,” said Sandra Janusch, director of the English Language Institute at UM. “Many countries know if their (students) can communicate in English as well as their native language, they’ve got a foot up in the world because of the globalization of everything.”

While classes begin next week for the university’s traditional students, the 250 new foreign freshmen gave the Missoula campus a whirl as it gears up for the fall semester.

Unlike their American peers who will arrive from across Montana and neighboring states, the students have crossed the globe to enroll at UM, a move that doesn’t come without trepidation.

“When they first arrive, they’re usually pretty excited,” said Janusch. “It’s usually two to three weeks later when they realize they’re away from home and family. Right now, they’re fresh-faced and happy to be here. Most of them have been waiting for months.”

The number of international students on campus has grown in the past few years. While enrollment numbers won’t be out for months, Janusch estimated that 250 new foreign students have registered for classes, bringing the foreign student body to roughly 600.

“There are more international students who want to study in the U.S.,” she said. “The North American higher education system is still highly regarded in the world. They want the opportunity to experience it and live it.”

Growth in the number of foreign students bodes well for the university and the American students who attend it. Campus diversity is a goal all universities strive for, and UM is enjoying a larger international flavor than in past years.

The students in this year’s orientation represent China, Japan, Latin America and the Middle East. Of all nations, Brazil tops the list.

“The Brazilian program is fully funded by the Brazilian government,” Janusch said. “They’re sending thousands of their students out.”

Vivianne Alves and Albenor Filho are included in the surge of Brazilian students heading out into the world to earn their degree and master the English language. The two students have already developed a friendship and they sat together in Monday’s session.

“Everyone’s excited to be here,” said Alves.

“First time in the U.S.,” added Filho.

Janusch said UM will continue to reach out to foreign students to promote the university’s offerings.

“The trouble with Montana – it isn’t a well-known state,” said Janusch. “If you go to China or Japan, they may not know where Montana is. But as you get more international students, they go home and tell their friends and family and there’s reciprocal enrollment that comes from that.”

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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