International students are an important part of the Graduate Liberal Studies program at Duke University. In the past decade, our program has regularly been enriched by students from the Americas, Europe, Africa, the Arab world, South Asia and East Asia. These students benefit our program both culturally and intellectually by sharing experiences and perspectives from around the world.
I. Before You Arrive
International students who are applying or have been admitted to the Duke GLS program should note the following:
Consider Spring Admission
The admission procedures are laid out in the Admissions section. Note that you have the option of beginning your studies in the Spring semester, if that works out better for you.
Be Aware of Language Issues
The biggest problem that most international students face is language: you must be able to communicate clearly in English, both in written and oral forms, in order to complete the MALS degree. Even if you feel very confident about your English skills, before you arrive, you should read as much in English as you can, and especially make sure to practice your spoken English -- because all of our classes are seminars in which you will need to speak up frequently and share ideas in discussion. Working on your oral language skills as much as possible before you arrive will make your experience in our program much more positive and successful. Note that, while GLS Writing Consultant Kent Wicker is always available for writing help, he does not have training in English as a Second Language -- and so he can be most helpful only for those who have already attained a certain level of proficiency in English.
Plan for EIS Courses
The Graduate School requires that all students for whom English is not a native language take oral and written English placement examinations administered by Duke’s English for International Students, typically during orientation week. Based on these test results, students are either exempted from or placed into one or more EIS courses. Students with EIS requirements must make satisfactory progress toward completing these requirements in their first year of study.
Note that these EIS courses are pass/fail courses that do not count toward the required 30 credits for graduation. Plan your own course of study carefully to allow for the fact that you must fit these extra courses into your first semester or two – even though your visa may limit the time you have to complete your degree.
If you can, arrive a few weeks early so that you can find a place to live, get to know your way around the Duke campus and the city of Durham, and begin making new American friends with whom you can practice speaking English. See the International House website for some great information – as well as a schedule of helpful events and programs – for international students.
Durham is a small post-industrial city that is becoming an increasingly vibrant and popular place for younger people to live. However, most of Durham is not particularly urban or densely built, so public transportation is limited. This means that it can be difficult to get around Durham without a car, so you may need to find living quarters close to campus. Duke University no longer offers housing for its graduate students, but housing is available nearby. For more on Durham, see Duke and Durham.
Whenever you arrive, stop by GLS House at 2114 Campus Drive on the Duke campus to say hello!
II. Resources for Current International Students
Congratulations for making it this far in the program! Here are some issues and resources that you should be aware of in order to make your experience in the program more pleasant and successful:
Make sure to check in regularly with Duke Visa Services -- either at the Duke Visa Services website or at their office in the Smith Warehouse. Betty Henderson can answer any question about your visa status. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 919-613-5090. She will help you know what the requirements of your visa are so that you do not have any unexpected problems. Keep in mind that a student visa does not normally allow you hold a non-campus job.
GLS International Student Dinner
Toward the beginning of every fall semester, GLS hosts a dinner at which international graduate students enrolled in GLS can share questions, concerns and advice with others in an informal atmosphere. All international students -- both new and returning -- are invited. See the Upcoming feed on the About Duke GLS tab for the time and place.
While at Duke, you will also want to take advantage of the many programs and services offered by International House, including orientation to life in Durham, help adjusting to a different culture, and conversation clubs in English, Spanish and Chinese.
Besides having access to the GLS Writing Consultant, international students may consult with those writing advisors at the Thompson Writing Center who are trained in English as a Foreign Language (EFL) support techniques. And English for International Students offers more than just courses: international students can arrange for individual writing or presentation consulting sessions.
Master’s Projects and Course Planning
Visa restrictions limit many international students to completing their degree in just two years. Such restrictions normally require international students to be registered as fulltime students, except during the summer or during the student’s final semester in the program. So international students who do not take summer classes typically finish degree requirements in four semesters (three courses each semester for three semesters, with the master’s project in the final semester).
This means that it is especially important for international students to plan their courses wisely. While you are not required to have a clear idea in mind for your your master’s project when you enter the program, you will want to think carefully about the courses you take to make sure that they add up to an educational experience that will serve you well. In particular, you will want to take courses that offer you knowledge, methods and contacts with faculty that will help you when it comes time to propose and carry out your master’s project.