CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Learning from books is important for Zelalem Tizazu. He committed five years of his life in his native Ethiopia reading, learning at school about becoming a pharmacist.
When it came to hands-on, clinical experience to earn his doctorate, Tizazu looked beyond his own borders.
"Since I believe this is a good department and good profession, I came here to spend more time (studying)," Tizazu said outside a classroom at the University of Charleston's School of Pharmacy.
Although Tizazu had to work odd jobs for a year in Charleston, the now 32-year-old was able to enroll at the pharmacy school this fall.
He was one of the 41 international applicants to the school in 2011, a sharp surge from the 22 the school received in 2010, according to Dr. Michelle Easton, dean of the pharmacy school.
UC is not alone in this growth: Graduate schools across the country have seen more applications from international students for the seventh consecutive year, according to a study by the Council of Graduate Schools.
In the first phase of the study, released last week, the council found that applications from prospective international students rose by 9 percent from 2011 to 2012. That bump comes after an 11 percent increase the previous year, the biggest hike since a 12 percent spike from 2005 to 2006.
Both West Virginia University and Marshall University experienced a similar swell during the last application cycle.
WVU reported a 9 percent jump in applications from potential international students from 2010 to 2011, said Brenda Thompson, associate vice president for enrollment management and services. There was a 2 percent increase in this year's international applicant numbers, she said.
"Overall, what you hope students get out of any educational experience is the ability to learn from other cultures," Thompson said. "Students need to interact in the global community."
At Marshall, the international applicant pool rose by 7 percent this year for graduate school programs, said Dr. Clark Egnor, executive director for the university's Center for International Programs. Raw numbers on the amount of international applications were not available. However, Egnor said Marshall generally processes about 500 applications for all international students, with more than half of those usually coming from graduate students. Thompson did not immediately know how many applications WVU receives from international students annually.
The council's study found that in particular, American universities have again seen a massive increase in the number of applicants from China. Since the start of 2008, the number of Chinese applicants has risen annually by 14, 20, 21 and 18 percent, respectively. Marshall has seen an even greater percent increase, Egnor said: although again he did not have raw numbers, he said the number of Chinese applicants to Marshall graduate programs grew by 100 percent from last year to this year.
The percent of applicants from Canada increased at the same rate, he added.
"I'm not surprised that we're seeing a big increase from China," Egnor said. "Everyone is."
Thompson did not know specific numbers, but said China has traditionally been one of the largest contributors to the international student body at WVU, along with India and Saudi Arabia. However, Thompson warned that some information compiled by schools indicates documents submitted by students from China are not always authentic. These applications can require more scrutiny than others, she said, but did not say how that scrutiny affected a Chinese student's chances for admission.
Despite the increase, both Egnor and Thompson admitted their universities have not paid too much attention to recruiting international graduate students. Thompson said WVU has focused on recruiting international students for its undergraduate programs. Egnor said Marshall doesn't have a large budget for any sort of international recruitment.
"Recruitment costs a lot of money," Egnor said. "It means if we really did some aggressive recruitment, we'd get (graduate program) results."