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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

International students add different perspective to KU

August 16, 2003

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Giri Gokulrangan has spent the past four years earning his doctorate in chemistry at Kansas University. But his education doesn't end within the classroom walls.

He has also been learning about America.

"It's a diverse culture, different kinds of people," said Gokulrangan, who is from India. "It's an introduction to American culture."

Gokulrangan isn't the only one getting that introduction. KU had more than 1,600 international students last spring. And KU officials do everything they can to lay out the welcome mat.

"International students in the classroom add different perspectives, different information, a different dimension to the campus," said Joe Potts, director of international student and scholar services at KU.

"Outside the classroom, too, friendships with international students help domestic students learn about the rest of the world, international issues, how the U.S. is perceived ... all of those things are pretty valuable educationally," he said. "It really is an important part of what we do."

The university assists international students by providing advising on immigration issues, helping the students meet each other and connecting them with programs that help them see American life beyond campus.

One of the main organizations that helps is the International Student Assn., which caters to all nationalities on campus. The organization provides social events for members, and has an international awareness week every spring.

Potts said the university was required to do more monitoring and reporting on student status to the federal government after the 9-11 terror attacks. Other changes have happened since then.

Benedict Kemmerer, who came to Kansas from Germany, completed his
doctorate in business during the summer. "It seemed like a friendly
place, a good town to spend five years in," Kemmerer says of
Lawrence.

Benedict Kemmerer, who came to Kansas from Germany, completed his doctorate in business during the summer. "It seemed like a friendly place, a good town to spend five years in," Kemmerer says of Lawrence.

"From the students' perspective, I think the main thing they notice is it's more difficult to get visas," he said. "There's more scrutiny at consular posts overseas, getting through the airport is more time-consuming than it used to be. On campus, we have more regulations we have to pay attention to."

But it's worth the hassle for many students, he said.

"KU's a great school for a number of reasons for international students," Potts said. "It's relatively affordable compared to a number of major universities. A number of international students come here because a friend came here or a relative came here before them."

Benedict Kemmerer, who completed his doctorate in business during the summer, agreed.

"Because I was an exchange student (from Germany) in Kansas City, I knew this place and town existed," he said. "It seemed like a friendly place, a good town to spend five years in."

And Kansas is seen as safe, compared to bigger metropolitan areas and the coasts.

"This is really the real America," Potts said. "Students who study in New York then come here feel this is a little more what most of the United States is like."

And American students benefit, Potts said. Many students study in other countries, but not all.

"Not all students can afford to do that, or have the opportunity to do that," Potts said. "For students who can't go abroad, having international students is a good step in that direction."

Gokulrangan said he has been pleased with his education -- both in and out of the classroom.

"My main focus has been to get good academic education and different life experience," he said. "The quality of the education is very good ... and the experience has been very enlightening."

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