Despite the triple-digit heat, Salem Alzahrani sits outside Dora Roberts Dining Hall, smoking full flavored cigarettes while chatting with fellow freshmen Khalid Aldansari and Nasser Alxami. The first-year Wesleyan students, all three natives of Saudi Arabia, talk about adjusting to life in Fort Worth — something they’ve only had a few weeks to do.
“When we came to America, it was a shock of culture,” Alzahrani, freshman business major said, referring to his initial transition to the states.
Texan transplants by way of Washington D.C., Miami and Atlanta, the men relax in the heavy metal chairs and compare their observations of Fort Worth life thus far: Arabic food is easier to locate in Dallas. Finding jobs proves difficult when one studies full time and only has a student VISA.
Switching between English and Arabic, they argue, solemnly but respectfully, about the freedom of living in the U.S. compared to living on campus, which they all do.
Aldansari, freshman, computer science major, finds living in the dorms bittersweet because alcohol, which is illegal in all of Saudi Arabia, isn’t allowed in the dorms.
“Back [in D.C.], if you were at your place, nobody could come to search for drugs or drink,” Aldansari, freshman computer science major, said. “Whatever you have in your house, that’s for you; It’s allowed.”
Alzahrani, on the other hand, said he doesn’t mind the rules because he can still find somewhere to have a drink off campus — something he couldn’t do at all back home.
Even though Alzahrani and his friends are about 7,500 miles away from home, their topic matter is considered standard among undergraduates on any given college campus in the country. Similar conversations can be overheard throughout the campus by clusters of students representing two of Wesleyan’s growing demographics: new and international students.
The number of international students enrolled at Wesleyan more than tripled since last year. A total of 163 international students are currently enrolled at Wesleyan compared to 48 who were enrolled last year, according to an official report released by the admissions office Sept. 7. Croatia, Nepal, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Ireland, Ghana and the United Kingdom comprise only a fraction of the countries represented by Wesleyan’s international student body. However, about 60 percent of the international students hail from Saudi Arabia.
The total number of undergraduates enrolled rose from 491 to 581 students. The enrollment, which fluctuated during the first week of school as more students arrived and others dropped classes, includes undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and law students.
The influx caused Wesleyan officials to schedule emergency meetings before the semester began to add general education curriculum courses while increasing the maximum amount of students allowed in existing classes. Three additional Academic Success Experience courses, aimed at helping first-time college students adjust to university rigors, were also added.
“These are great problems to be dealing with when our budget was based on last year’s enrollment,” said Joe Brown, dean of freshman success and professor of theatre arts and mass communication, in a department email
Although more students means more money, Sherri Caraballo, institutional research director, said it is difficult to determine the amount of funds a group of students brings to the university as each student has different financial circumstances. Tuition and fees for one regular full-time student total $10, 420.
Caraballo said the amount a student is charged for three tuition hours could vary drastically between two students.
As students and funds pour in due to Wesleyan’s enrollment increase, so does the school’s need for student resources.
Sharon Manson, director of residence life, said her department realized in late July it would need more beds due to the looming increase in students. Residence Life used $7,940 from the housing budget to purchase 20 new mattresses and frames over the summer.
Members of Residence Life contemplated doubling the occupancy in rooms in Elizabeth Armstrong Hall and tripling the occupancy in Stella Russell Hall when the decision was made to reopen rooms in OC Armstrong Hall, Manson said. The rooms were previously occupied by inactive student organizations or were used as storage, she said.
“Our goal is to not house students in OC,” Manson said in an email. “They might miss out on the traditional college experience being somewhat isolated from the other students in residence halls.”
Manson said as rooms become available Residence Life hopes to filter the international students to Stella, Elizabeth and West Village. If rooms do not become available, housing will hire a residential assistant to serve as a resource to the students in OC Armstrong.
While housing makes moves to help the students have a place to settle in, the International Programs Office prepares to help the international students with anything else they may need. The department helps students open bank accounts, eases the difficulty of adapting to a different culture and helps them locate everything from cell phone chargers to the restaurants.
“Most of these students don’t have family [here],” said Timothy Reece, International Programs assistant. “They’re still in the process of making friends and such. Until then, we’re helping them meet their academic and personal needs.”
Portions of this article were originally published online Aug. 28. Statistics in article were updated at time of print.