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STANFORD -- In the 1970s, American universities saw an influx of students from oil-rich countries in the Middle East. In the 1980s, it was students from Asia, particularly the People's Republic of China.

Now, with glasnost and the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, Stanford and other U.S. universities are seeing another trend: a small but rapidly increasing number of students from Eastern Europe and what was the Soviet Union.

According to the Institute of International Education, the number of Eastern European students at U.S. universities in 1990-91 grew by 42 percent from the previous year - from 3,400 to 4,800.

At Stanford, the percentage rise in Soviet students is particularly striking. Eighteen months ago, when Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev visited the university, reporters were able to track down only one Soviet student on campus. Today, there are 14.

"I think the Soviet Union has been ready to do this for quite a long time," said John Pearson, director of Stanford's Bechtel International Center, which keeps the count of international students on campus. "The Soviets are now interested in direct exchange; it's just a matter of getting the money to come."

Although many Soviet students receive some form of financial aid from their colleges, including privately funded scholarships and research assistantships, married students often have to leave their spouses and children behind because they cannot afford to bring them, Pearson said.

"We even heard of a few cases last year where Soviet students bound for California arrived on the East Coast and then didn't even have enough money to catch the connecting flight west," he said.

Getting hard currency out of their countries is only one of the obstacles facing Soviet and Eastern European students who want to come to the United States.

For Tanya Podchiyska, a Stanford freshman from Bourgas, Bulgaria, just applying to American colleges was an exercise in bureaucratic frustration.

Podchiyska decided to come to college in America after a group of visiting Canadian students urged her to apply. But neither the required Scholastic Aptitude Test nor the American College Test were given in Bulgaria, so a special testing center had to be established in Sofia for her and two other students.

Delays in the mail also played havoc with her admissions process. She applied "blindly" to every school that sent her an application in time, including Harvard, Dartmouth and the University of Chicago, but the completed forms frequently were lost en route to the United States. "I sent my Stanford application three times," she told the Stanford Daily.

Those Soviet and East European students who do make it to the United States are generally thrilled with the freedom of discourse and quality of academic resources that they find on American campuses.

"The conditions to work here are very good - good libraries, good experimental data, good computers," said Alexandr Draganov, a graduate of Kiev State University who is working toward a Stanford doctorate in electrical engineering. "Here I can do more than I could at home.

"I am sure that next year maybe more Soviet students will come, if American universities will accept them."

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