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UAlbany Increases Recruitment in Asia
by Greta Petry (December 12, 2003)

The University at Albany is being talked about by high school students and their parents in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, as the University has increased its recruitment efforts in Asia in recent years.

John Pomeroy, assistant director of Undergraduate Admissions for international enrollment, returned October 26 from his most recent recruitment trip to Asia, a trip in which UAlbany alumni and parents of current undergraduates played a prominent role.

Pomeroy said the first question he often fields from potential international students and their parents has to do with location.

“People hear New York and they think the University must be located in a major metropolitan area. Many parents respond positively to hearing that Albany is several hours away from New York and Boston,” Pomeroy said. “New York State is very popular in Hong Kong. I could definitely see the interest there.”

The next question is often about climate. New York State is a bit chillier than its closest competitor, California, which draws the largest number of international students.

According to the Institute of International Education’s (IIE’s) Open Doors Report 2003, released in November, the state of California has 80,487 international students. New York State ranks second, with 63,773 international students. Overall, the leading country of origin for foreign students in New York State is the Republic of Korea, followed by China, India, Japan, and Canada. For the University at Albany, however, most international students and scholars arrive from China (about 28 percent); followed by Korea (roughly 16 percent); India (about 14 percent); and Japan (almost 10 percent). More than 150 students from India are studying at UAlbany. Many other Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam, are represented in the student body.

During Pomeroy’s recruitment trips to college fairs abroad, parents and students alike ask about cost. When they hear that one year’s expenses total $20,000 for an international student at UAlbany, contrasted with about $45,000 for a year at a private university, that saving resonates.

About 75 percent, or 850, of UAlbany’s 1,185 international students hail from Asia, according to the Office of International Education. More than 100 undergraduates are enrolled this fall from the areas Pomeroy visited.

While Pomeroy logs many miles a year on these recruiting trips and others, the excitement and enthusiasm of UAlbany alumni and parents assisting him enhances the credibility of the University’s reputation for excellence. These alumni and parents translate questions for him, and speak to their own experiences. While successful alumni from China or Taiwan attest to the quality education they received at UAlbany, a father may share his son’s on-campus e-mail address with a prospective student, and reassure another parent that Albany is a safer place to go to school than a larger city.

Pomeroy recruited at an IIE fair that was held in the Hong Kong Exhibition and Convention Centre for more than a thousand high school students. This hall was the site of the July 1, 1997 handing over of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese. There are about 15 undergraduates, and more than 300 international students and scholars, studying at UAlbany from other parts and provinces of China.

Pomeroy was assisted in Hong Kong by Paul Cheung, the proud father of UAlbany senior Yingchi Tempsin Cheung. Tempsin, an economics major with a minor in business, found UAlbany by searching online and by checking the University’s ranking on the U.S. News & World Report Web site,

She has a younger brother, Samson, who is also studying in the U.S. When her father, Paul, assists in recruiting, other parents in Hong Kong ask him about the number of students at UAlbany; whether there are many Asian students on campus (because the parents he speaks with usually prefer their children to have more contact with English-speaking students in order to improve their English); how to get to UAlbany from Hong Kong; and which airport is more convenient. He is also asked about the weather in Albany “and whether it is too freezing for Hong Kong students to adapt.”

Paul Cheung added in an e-mail, “The most important thing about Albany that I express to Hong Kong parents is that the studying atmosphere there is very good and the location of the University is good and self-contained, since it is not close to an extremely busy city. Students will become more concentrated on their studies.”

In Tokyo, Japan at another IIE fair, Mitsuyo Phillips helped out. The mother of a son and a daughter at UAlbany, she has traveled to the campus numerous times.

And at the “Chinese University” in the New Territories, Hong Kong, Pomeroy met with Ping Ping Fu, Ph.D., a business professor who was taught at UAlbany by Professor Sue Faerman and earned her doctorate here.

Recruiting new students thousands of miles from home can be a bit complicated. “You never know what to expect,” said Pomeroy, who once had to borrow a suit and shoes from an alumnus for a recruiting fair, since his luggage did not arrive with him. Luckily, the suit fit. He had to walk carefully in the shoes, however, which, at size 11, were three sizes larger than his own.

In the spring of 2003, recruiting took Pomeroy to Bangkok and Singapore. He returned by way of Taiwan. It was not until two days after he returned home to the U.S. that he learned he had been traveling through the very areas touched by the SARS outbreak. Luckily again, he stayed healthy.

One aspect of recruiting abroad that has become faster in recent years is communication. In Spring 2003, Pomeroy met high school student James Bang at King George V School in Hong Kong. Bang enrolled at UAlbany. Just two days before Pomeroy was to leave for Asia this fall, he learned via e-mail that Bang had a friend back home in Hong Kong who was interested in UAlbany and who wanted to meet with him.

“In the days before e-mail, setting up this meeting would have taken about six weeks,” Pomeroy said. “We would have written letters. Instead, we met within two days because of James’s e-mail.”

Making the Adjustment

Wei-Tsong “Willie” Wang of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, considered Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia, in addition to the United States, when he first thought about studying abroad.

Wang, a doctoral student in information science at UAlbany, assisted in the development of the Admissions Web site.

“When I was 25 years old, I realized how important it was for me to have an advanced degree in business or information technology, and I decided to apply for schools in the U.S. because the U.S. is the leader in IT as well as business fields,” he said. Wang, now 29, did some research about colleges through the Internet and libraries, and had some assistance from a consulting institution that helps people apply to schools in foreign countries.

“I found that the University at Albany has a relatively strong major in management information systems provided by its MBA program. I thought it would be good to join the program since I could acquire knowledge in both business and MIS fields. I got accepted by the MBA program and attended the school in Fall 2000, a few months after my 26th birthday,” he said.

Wang has lived away from home since he was 18 for college, military service, and work. “However, it is another story living in a country where people do not share the same language and the same culture with me. It was hard for me to communicate with people here in the beginning.”

It took about three months to make friends, settle in, and increase his proficiency in English to a point where he felt comfortable in conversation.

It was hard in the beginning. “I found that people here have way different logic of thinking as well as different customs from me, and my English was not good enough for me to deal with these differences in terms of speaking and listening.”

In time Wang made the adjustments and is now entering his fourth year living in Albany. Still, at times he misses home. “I decided to go home at least once a year after my grandmother passed away last December. It made me realize how important my family is to me, and I want to spend as much time with them as I can. My parents were happy when I told them that I am going home this winter. They told me that they would have paid for the airline tickets if I had asked. I am very grateful to be their son and hopefully will get my Ph.D. degree successfully to make them proud.”

When one lives far from home, as Wang does, there are certain foods one misses. For an American abroad, it may be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches even if one rarely eats this at home. While there are many Chinese and Asian restaurants in the area, Wang said, “the tastes of the food are just different from what I had back home. Sometimes I miss some kinds of noodles and some dishes made of sticky rice that I could have easily in Taiwan, and I need to spend time to learn how to make them by myself.”


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