The US press is starting to realize that many American universities are not doing a great job of integrating international students on their campuses. In the last few days, both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have published articles about international students struggling with English and the norms of the US education system, sticking together in country-of-origin cliques, and generally making local students and residents feel uncomfortable. These, of course, are the same issues that come up when dealing with other types of migrants.
Universities often see international students in purely economic or transactional terms: you give us tuition dollars, and we give you a diploma. As a part of that transaction, you may come to live in our community for a few years. What that looks like and how we can make that experience work well for everyone is not particularly important to think about.
European governments thought the same way about guest workers from the Middle East during the postwar boom. They’d bring in bodies for a predetermined time, exchange marks and francs for labor, and send the bodies back. But those bodies weren’t robots. As the Swiss writer Max Frisch had said, they asked for workers but people came. Social beings with all of the complications that being social entails.