Bonjour! Talofa! Ciao! Hello! As you stroll throughout campus, you could hear a hush of conversations spoken in various languages. Now, more than ever, UAA’s diverse population is at its heights. A fair amount of international students are blended into this melting pot. Unless these students open up and share their stories, it is almost impossible to differentiate them from their American born and bred counterparts of the same race.
An international student is specifically defined as a non-U.S. citizen who is attending UAA on an F-1 (degree seeking) student visa or a J-1 (non-degree seeking) student visa as an exchange student. Students who are immigrants, refugees or naturalized citizens are not technically considered international students.
International student advisor Carter Caywood said that for the school year of 2011-2012 there were 397 students enrolled from almost 40 different countries here at UAA. A majority of these students come from Eastern Europe, where they share similar interests like hiking and skiing. The highest population comes from Russia, with 66 students. The second largest population comes from Saudi Arabia with 57 students, and the third from South Korea with 52 students. Others come from countries like Cameroon, Kazakhstan and Moldova. Overall, numbers are steadily on the rise. If this trend continues, there will be even more international students enrolled for the school year of 2012-2013.
There’s always that same cliché question, though: Why Alaska? The answer is simple.
“UAA is inexpensive and it’s in close proximity with these countries. Also, while other schools are rigid with international requirements, we make it easier while adhering to procedures,” Cecile Mitchell, director of admissions for International Student Services said.
It takes more than ambition and paperwork to get here. Mitchell said that aside from athletic scholarships there are few other scholarships available to international students. They have to pay tuition out of pocket and have to provide proof of funds before even being admitted.
Tung Nguyen, one of only two international students from Vietnam, is here pursuing a degree in computer science. He works on campus as a student computer technician for Electronic Student Services. He’s bonded with fellow Vietnamese students who were raised here in the United States but says making friends in general is a breeze. His face lit up as he spoke of the array of Pho restaurants here in Anchorage; a comforting thought for him, thousands of miles away from home. He eagerly divulged a couple recommendations for Pho fanatics.
“Pho Saigon on Dimond and Pho Vietnam in midtown are the best,” Nguyen said, confidently.
Anna Shcheglyuk came from Russia four years ago and has already accomplished a great deal. She graduated with a degree in global logistics management. She has worked for a year with a local company, and she is currently pursuing a second degree in accounting while working as an assistant in International Student Services. At first, she thought Anchorage was way too cold and dark, but she is now smitten by the city and people and hopes to stay here after she graduates.
Nguyen and Shcheglyuk remind us of what we admire about international students: their ability to speak more than one language, their resilience, their hard work and contributions and their zest for trying new things in life.
The International Student Association hosts what is called “Passport Series” once a month on the second floor of the UAA Bookstore, wherein an international student gives a full presentation on their country. It kicks off every fall; the specific dates and times will be posted all over campus. Stop on by — this would be a fun way to learn even more about your fellow Seawolves!