Dec 072004
Authors: B.A. Klaene

Editor's Note: A series of stories exploring the unique experiences of international students at CSU will be running in the Collegian the remainder of the week.

CSU is home to nearly 40 exchange students and approximately 1,000 international students from countries around the world for the fall semester, according to Seth Webb coordinator for International Programs.

Foreign students believe the American academic experience holds opportunities they would otherwise not have in their home countries, said Manuela Goller, a German graduate student studying German.

"You have your small country and you want to get out of it, you have to study abroad," Goller said. "Exchange students in general always had the best parties and seemed to have the most fun."

Exchange students are typically studying abroad for a short amount of time: a semester or a year. Whereas international students come to CSU seeking a degree program, typically their masters or PhD, and most of these students come to CSU from Asia and the Middle East.

"Our top five degree seeking countries are China PRC, India, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia," said Shawna Magtutu, program coordinator for the Office of International Programs in an e-mail interview.

The Office of International Programs, located in Laurel Hall, is comprised of three areas: International Student and Scholar Services, International Education and Study Abroad. The office assists both foreign and domestic students with study abroad programs.

Webb said many degree-seeking students come to study in the United States to bring back potential developments of American education to their home countries that may not provide the advanced programs.

"What it comes down to is recruiting and the level of need in terms of industry and the level of expertise in those countries," Webb said.

Ku Birm Kwon, a senior biochemistry major from South Korea, said his reason for studying abroad is to gain an expertise in biochemistry, that he can take back to Seoul and help further develop his country.

He notes that South Korea is in an economically sensitive position in comparison to other Asian countries.

"We have only one option, we have to develop science and technology to try and catch up," Kwon said.

Many students studying at CSU from the Middle East echo these motives.

Basem Abu-Jamil, an English literature PhD student from Saudia Arabia, also chose to study abroad to contribute positively to his country.

"I come from an English department that is new to my university. They are lacking in professors, there is no specialist in literature and they gave me a scholarship to come here and study," Abu-Jamil said. "I chose the U.S. because I have experience here. My family was here for about eight years and my father studied here, my uncle was studying here and my cousins lived here."

Webb said many students come to the United States to study engineering, economics and natural sciences.

"The types of science and engineering that would benefit those countries," Webb said.

Omar Alhzmi, a computer science PhD student from Saudia Arabia said he wanted to study abroad so he could have access to educational opportunities not available in his country.

"This program is not offered in my country, plus I wanted to meet new people and mix with the other cultures and have a bigger perspective of life and the academia at other universities," said Alhzmi. "I attended the University of Pennsylvania to get a different perspective in the same country."

Khaleel Alyahya, a neurobiology PhD student from Saudia Arabia, chose to further his education at CSU to fulfill a void in his family.

"My father and brothers failed to complete their education so my father pushed me to make it, to do something for the family," Alyahya said. "The second reason is to better my future for my family for the people I care about. These reasons pushed me to come here and study."

Ahmed Khogeer, a chemical engineering PhD student from Saudia Arabia, also felt family pressure to achieve a PhD.

"For me it was family reasons, my father has a PhD, my sister has a PhD. It became my goal. I have to get a PhD," Khogeer said.

Khogeer also describes the United States as an agreeable location to study based on the past friendship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and the general temperament of the American population.

"It was the American dream for us. It was a country that we could feel open. Here we can do our prayers, we can do anything here and nobody harasses us here, nobody does anything to us here," Khogeer said. "American people are so simple, they like to laugh, they like to joke; they are so simple."

Another student, like Goller who majored in English in Germany, chose the United States to study in because of the lifestyle.

"I really love the country. I love the bigger, better, faster, more attitude," Goller said. "Also people are very friendly and open and I would say a little bit warmer than Germans."

Students choosing to study abroad in the United States or in other countries can have an inimitable experience.

"There is the personal or the social benefit of making new friends and establishing connections with American students or other international students," Webb said. "Academically, studying abroad provides an opportunity for students to take courses that may not be available here at CSU or courses particular to that country."

Webb also mentions how studying abroad can impact a student's future prospects.

"Career-wise some sort of global or cross-cultural competence is becoming more and more of a soft requirement," Webb said. "It can set students apart when they are applying for jobs."

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