Far From Home

Every year, hundreds of thousands of foreign students set off for the States in pursuit of an American diploma. Most come to study the sciences. And their numbers keep growing; the Institute of International Education reports that a record 582,996 foreign students enrolled in U.S. universities last school year. Many of those students attended a select group of universities. The common factor? Each school makes sure international students feel welcome--and each has good word of mouth among folks back home. "If you asked foreign students to name three American schools, they'd name Harvard, Stanford and one of these," says IIE president Allan Goodman. "Students know them because their cousins, uncles and friends go there." They are (in order):

1. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, LOS ANGELES. USC is home to more than 5,000 international students. (Its promotional brochure spotlights an Australian student of Vietnamese origin.) Newcomers might be tempted to befriend only their compatriots, but most find the atmosphere friendly enough that they fit in with any group.

2. NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK CITY. What better place for foreign students to learn than in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty? NYU makes the city manageable, coaching foreign students on everything from travel planning to getting off-campus jobs.

3. COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK CITY. Between Hispanic neighborhoods, Harlem and the Hungarian Pastry Shop (a favorite landmark), Columbia holds an obvious charm for global nomads. Its topnotch American Language Program offers English classes for law, business and tech types.

4. PURDUE UNIVERSITY, WEST LAFA-YETTE, INDIANA. Purdue has more stu-dents (37,871) than the town has residents (28,778). It boasts a top-ranked engineering program. The international office pairs foreign students with locals and teaches them the finer points of American football.

5. UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN. UT-Austin draws Central and South American students. The PALS Program hooks them up with American students, and an entire department helps their families settle in.

6. BOSTON UNIVERSITY. Boston is home to some 50 institutions of higher learning, but BU has the biggest number of international students, 139 of whom hail from South Korea.

7. OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY, COLUMBUS. Solid business and engineering departments--both popular with international students--combine with a vibrant social scene.

8. UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN. Almost every country is represented--there are two undergraduates from Mauritius. Students bond in the Cosmopolitan Club (like the United Nations with cocktails).