Six to 1685

After the long admissions process is finally over and the foreign student arrives at Harvard, a whole new series of logistical complications present themselves.

The new arrival needs to find out where to eat, or change his housing, or seek academic advice, or simply get a driver's license.

More importantly, legal questions can arise, particularly in relation to student visas. Complicated government regulations concerning employment, travel permits and annual alien registration must be adhered to.

Regulations state, for instance, that all foreign students must be full-time students, but as of this year the government will also require that students prove they can support themselves during both the summer and school year.

In 1944 the University set up the Harvard International Office (HIO) to deal with these and similar problems. Its director, Jennifer Stephens, a British citizen with "I'm a Tory" button on her desk, believes the HIO serves as an effective liaison between foreign students and the various University offices they must deal with.

"We are one of the only centralized offices in the entire university," Stephens notes, adding that keeping track of 1685 foreign students in 15 different Harvard schools plus foreign faculty members keeps HIO's sixperson staff busy.

In addition to providing students with information and keeping track of visa data, the office runs a host family program that eases the transition by matching students up with families in the area. All but the Business and Medical schools participate.

The office also runs English classes for foreign faculty members' spouses.

According to slightly old but still representative statistics released by Stephens, foreign students make up 9.6 per cent of all Harvard students. Columbia leads the Ivies with 12.7 per cent, while at Yale 6.4 per cent or about 600 students are from foreign countries.