“This has been one of the most diverse groups of foreign exchange students the university has hosted,” Heather Catton, SFA director of international programs, said.
The group comprises two students from Pakistan, two from Tunisia, five from France, three from the United Kingdom, one from Taiwan and one from Malta. Eleven of the students are undergraduates while three are graduate students.
The students participate in exchanges through different programs.
Two programs are offered by the U.S. State Department: Global UGRAD, which is part of a broader effort to promote a better understanding of the U.S. abroad, especially among future world leaders, and the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship, which allows students to develop a deeper understanding of American culture and gain new skills that will help them further the economic growth and development of their country.
Along with the U.S. State Department programs, students come from the Rose Bruford theatre exchange program, the LaRochelle business exchange program and the ISEP world-wide study abroad program.
Sujata Panjwani, a Pakistan exchange student through the Global UGRAD program, said studying in America will help both her education and personal growth.
“I have a great desire to enhance and share my knowledge and explore the widely diversified cultures in the U.S.,” Panjwani said. “Being a Pakistani and coming from a different culture, I have a lot to share in terms of my beliefs, perception and ideology.”
Mariem Hmidy, an exchange student from Tunisia through the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship, believes her time in America will benefit her when she returns home.
“Tunisia needs its young citizens to help make the country better,” Hmidy said. “Tunisia needs active young people to help its economic and political needs. This exchange program teaches me how to be a better citizen.”
While at SFA, Hmidy will undergo career preparation activities in the fall and an internship in the spring.
The SFA Office of International Programs works to ensure the students thrive during their time at the university. The program works to help students easily transition to living in America. Many exchange students deal with a myriad of issues and new challenges, such as introductions to new and different foods, academic course offerings and lack of public transportation. The office also verifies that credits acquired at SFA will transfer when the exchange students return to their home countries.
Catton said she encourages the exchange students to participate in different activities while studying abroad.
“A lot of students get to experience what life is like at a U.S. university while they are here, such as enjoying social clubs and joining fraternities and sororities. Many foreign colleges do not have the same social opportunities we do in the U.S., so these students really take advantage of those activities while here.”
The Office of International Programs hopes to expand the number of exchange programs SFA offers. In the spring, Catton said they are planning to add Université Jean Monnet in France to the list of participants.
For more information about international programs at SFA, visit http://www.sfasu.edu/oip/.
Emily Brown is a marketing communications specialist at Stephen F. Austin State University.