While most Ohio University students drove across the state to get to campus this semester, many international students traveled across the globe to become Bobcats.
New and returning international students met Saturday at the International Student Union Welcome Picnic to celebrate the start of the new semester.
“I can see some domestic students, Americans and international students,” Hashim Pashtun, director of ISU, said at the start of the event. “Please don’t isolate yourself, hang out with each other, get to know each other, don’t be shy. There is no bad question.”
Pashtun hails from Kabul, Afghanistan, and said he joined ISU because he feels there is a wall between international students and domestic students at OU.
“Those walls are not physical but cultural,” Pashtun, a civil engineering Ph.D. candidate, said. “We sit in the same classroom, but it’s the wall of ideas and approach and attitude and thinking styles.”
According to the ISU website, the group strives to “promote sense of community among international and American students at OU.” ISU functions as an umbrella organization for 30 international groups representing different countries and regions of the world.
According to the Office of Institutional Research, 1,695 international students from more than 100 countries were enrolled at the Athens campus for the 2015-2016 school year.
International students currently make up 7.2 percent of the student body, with enrollment hovering between six-to-eight percent in recent years.
Some may wonder how students from different nations even hear of OU, but Pashtun said the reason he came was because it has one of the best master’s programs for civil engineering.
Carlos Jimenez, a graduate student from Oaxaca, Mexico, studying counseling, said the education he can get at OU is better than at home.
“I get more experiences, meet people from pretty much everywhere, that’s one thing,” Jimenez said. “And school overall is just better.”
Hajir Ali, a graduate student from Baghdad, Iraq, studying civil engineering, said her government has a contract through OU that sends Iraqi students to America to gain new experiences and skills, after which they will return to apply their education to the Iraqi workforce.
Just like with domestic students, Ali said she misses home, but she faces additional problems that American students do not.
“I really like it here, the only problem that I have is that I’m away from my family,” said Ali. “The problem isn’t financially, but the problem is my visa… I’m afraid if I get another, it will get rejected, especially in this time because of the ISIS and many critical problems now.”
Overall, Ali said her experience at OU thus far has been positive.
“I think the people here — maybe it’s because all of us are students — but usually they are all nicer than people in my country, more friendly than people in my country,” Ali said. “Here all the people are open, and in my country there is some conservative, especially in relationships.”
Vong Qing Yang, a chemical engineering Ph.D. candidate from Nanjing, China, said she has experienced less pressure as a student in America.
“The life here is more colorful,” Yang said. “In China, maybe if I didn’t have money or power maybe I do not have the chance to come do different things, but here maybe I have a chance.”
ISU will be hosting another Welcome Picnic for Fulbright Scholars on Sept. 4 on South Beach. All students are welcome to attend.