Many reasons attract international students to SDSU


Alakananada Mookerjee

If glorious, sunny weather isn’t one of South Dakota State University’s selling points, then its cultural diversity certainly is. With students from as many as 40 different countries on the campus, the university has every reason to be proud of its multi-ethnic composition.

There are currently 225 foreign students pursuing a variety of academic disciplines, of which 69.8 percent are enrolled at the Master’s level.

Figures released by the Office of International Student Affairs for Spring 2004 say that students from India make up the bulk of foreign students, accounting for about 42 percent of the international student population.

Some of the other nationalities that are represented on the campus are Botswana, Ethiopia, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Lithuania, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, Nepal, Poland, People’s Republic of China, Romania, Zimbabwe.

As far as climates go, South Dakota isn’t exactly the most hospitable of places, but that doesn’t deter foreign students from choosing SDSU as their academic destination.

Each year, students travel from far and wide to attend college here.

What brings them here? Some of the criteria that typically influence an international student’s decision in choosing college A over college B are: its academic ranking, its financial worth, the amount of money it can shell out in the form of assistantships or scholarship, its location and its demographic profile.

Speaking with a cross-section of the Indian students on campus revealed however, one overriding factor in their decision to choose SDSU: economic reasons.

“Well, my department isn’t all that bad. I have to work really hard. If I didn’t, my professors wouldn’t be giving me the money that they are right now,” Sumita Chanda, a graduate student of dairy sciences said.

Comparatively low tuition costs, coupled with the high probability of getting assistantships in the technical disciplines makes the university an attractive option for students with modest financial means.Added to that, is the relative ease with which foreign students get hired for on-campus jobs.

Most international students claim that they first heard of SDSU not during an intensive college search exercise in the “Directory of U.S. Universities “but from friends who have been or are students at SDSU.

“My friend was here. So, I chose to come to SDSU,” said Hema Malini, who comes from the Southern Indian town of Hyderabad.

For Ahmad Al-Omari, an Environmental Engineering student from Jordan it was pretty much the same story.He had heard of SDSU from a friend whose father was faculty here.

Abdullah Daud from Bangladesh, who has now lived here for four years, threw an interesting light on what brought him to SDSU.

“I was engaged in aquaculture in a rural district in Bangladesh- Kishoregang-when my friend from the U.S. came visiting us during his summer-break.He talked a great deal about where he was studying-SDSU-telling me that it would be the ideal campus for someone with my mindset-someone who believes in ‘simple living and high thinking’-to pursue higher studies. I then applied to SDSU. Luckily, I got through the Computer Engineering program,” Daud said.

Some others however, are here under the umbrella of the various “Student Exchange Programs” offered by the university as part of its ongoing drive to woo more foreign students.

For instance, Marie-Laure Sauer from Toulouse, France , first arrived in Brookings in the summer of 1997 as an exchange student to do an internship. After returning home, she stayed in contact with her advisor and some of the friends that she had made here.

Back again in 2001, she enrolled for a Doctoral program in plant sciences

“Some of our exchange students often like it here so much that they come back for a graduate degree,” Donna Raetzman, International Students Affairs Advisor said.

Discussing the various ties that SDSU has with various foreign universities, Dr. Karl Schmidt, Director of International Programsaid, “We currentlyhave20 different agreementswith universitiesall over the globe.Theoldeststandingagreementthatwehave is withtheUniversityof Manchester (England) and has been in place for the past 10 years.

“Some of the other universities thatwesend our studentsto and therebyalso receiveareJonkoping University, Vaxjao University, both in Sweden,the American University in Cairo (Egypt) andStuttgart University (Germany).

“We are working towardssigning an agreement with a university in India.”