International Housing: Enough Room for Everyone?

Finding somewhere to live is a concern on almost everyone’s for many Northern Arizona University (NAU) students, after Housing and Residence Life announced the conversion of three and a half halls to be freshman halls and gave freshmen priority to choose housing. With more freshmen and international students coming to NAU each year and a constant number of beds, on campus options are limited for upperclassmen. President Rita Cheng is pushing to increase the international population of Northern Arizona University (NAU) to 2,000 students.

“We’re housing more students on campus than 98% of universities in the United States. We have over twice the per capita housing than ASU [Arizona State University] and U of A [University of Arizona],” Dr. Rich Payne, executive director of NAU Housing and Residence Life said. “Our demand [for housing] has been historically high, about half of our housing in non-freshmen,”

With over a 75 percent increase in freshmen attending NAU each year and growing international student population, it might seem like returning students are going to have slim picking for housing. However, international students are last on the priority list.

“[International students] are towards the end of the application process,” Dr. Dylan Rust, Director of Global Student Life, said. “Rising sophomores get the first choice, and then all the other on campus students get a crack at it including returning international students. And then after those spaces, [first-time] international students get to pick.”

The Center for International Education (CIE) has an agreement with Residence Life to hold 120 beds for new international students, Rust said. Currently 250 international students live on campus.

This year was the first year Residence Life dedicated an entire hall, Campus Heights, to the International House.

Campus Heights, home of the International House. Photo by Ashley Phillis

”We have a mix, about 60 percent [Campus Heights Residents] are international students and 40 percent are domestic students,” Camille Dhennin, graduate assistant residence hall director of Campus, Heights said.

“There are a lot of cultural factors that go into international students choosing to live on campus,” said Dhennin. “A lot of it is on campus is easy, we have it set up for them…They are also set up apartment style so they’re able to come here and cook their own food.”

“Most international students we speak with say they come to the United States to have a cultural immersion,” Payne said. “It’s not just about housing, it’s more about the reason they come to begin with, and it’s more than just studying.”

“They get to live in more diverse communities. A lot of international students who come here are looking to get the American college experience and immerse in the culture, and the best way to do that is to live on campus,” Rust said.

Even with an increasing amount of international students wanting to live on campus, Payne does not think that housing will be an issue, as some international students, such as those from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, choose to live off campus.

“We’ll probably see some increase in the number of international students who want to live on campus, but I also think there will be an increase of students who want to live off campus,” Payne said. “Certain host countries almost never live on campus… They find the cultural immersion objectionable based on religious preference.”

Housing and Residence Life is aware of the increasing number of freshmen enrolling and is trying to accommodate all students who want to live on campus.

“We’re in the process of designing new on campus housing,” Payne said. “Architects are drawing right now. They’re hoping to break ground this summer and have a completion date as early as fall of 2016.”

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