International teaching assistants face unique struggles and stressors, while still prioritizing their students' education.Image By: Maggie Liu
International TA’s navigate the globe and the classroom
International students, many of whom made journeys halfway across the globe, have been enrolling and teaching in high numbers at universities across the nation.
International graduate students constituted approximately 20 percent of total national enrollment, according to the 2017 Graduate Enrollment and Degrees report by the Council of Graduate Schools.
The number of international graduate students’ enrollment at UW-Madison is significantly higher than the national average — it was close to 2,703 in Fall 2017, nearly half as many as the 4,791 American students, according to UW-Madison’s Office of the Registrar.
Koo Zhixiong, a former investigative reporter and journalism lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University, did not enter graduate school right after commencement like many graduate students do, but rather shifted from the industry into the academic field.
“I was teaching as a lecturer back in Hong Kong, but teaching as a [teaching assistant] is new to me. Teaching in English and teaching in America is new to me,” said Zhixiong, who now attends UW-Madison.
Graduate school is competitive, especially for international TAs, according to Zhixiong. Such a competitive environment can lead to mental health disorders, including anxiety and depression. According to a Yale University survey released in 2013, close to 39 percent of Chinese graduate students on the university’s campus reported depression and 25 percent experienced anxiety.
At UW-Madison, many graduate students come to International Student Services with academic issues, according to Colleen Hutchinson, an ISS student advisor.