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International students pursue higher education at A&M

Published: Thursday, November 29, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 29, 2012 01:11

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Viveck Karthikeyan

If a student’s journey to Texas A&M encounters milestones such as “DS-160”, “GRE-GMAT-TOEFL”, “I-94” and “H1B” - terminologies not familiar to the entire student populace, chances are that the student belongs to a select breed better known as international students.

One in every ten students on the Texas A&M campus is an international student. Students from across the globe select A&M as their preferred destination after carefully considering a multitude of factors and a variety of educational programs that A&M offers.

“When I decided to pursue an MS degree in the U.S., the main criteria that I looked for in the university evaluation process was to get quality education at an affordable price - Texas A&M topped my list,” Benita Daniel, a first year graduate student from India, pursuing a master’s degree in management information systems, said.

Daniel said there were other determining factors such as the University’s core values, the success rate of women in her program, faculty expertise and career opportunities that made her choose A&M.

“Texas A&M is one of the high ranked universities in the country and I was ecstatic at the offer of admission from the university,” Daniel said.

International students have to surpass a number of hurdles before they are admitted into a university of their choice. Students usually have to prove their mettle by scoring well on tests like Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), which test their general quantitative aptitude and language skills. Some universities, including A&M, require students to give the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to prove their English language skills. Students need to make sure these test scores are high enough to meet the cut-off marks of the universities they are targeting.

“Studying for the GRE and adapting to the American teaching style was a different experience,” Vanessa Barbato, an international affairs major from Brazil, pursuing her master’s program at the Bush School said. “I came to College Station one year before getting accepted to graduate school to learn the American teaching style and prepare for the GRE. During that period, I attended classes at Blinn College to make sure I was ready to get back to school.”

These tests are followed by activities of applying for and securing admission from the university that the student aspires to attend, arranging funds for tuition and living expenses, getting the letter of admission from the university, applying and appearing for the visa interview and last but not the least, boarding the plane. Visa interviews are “make or break” events for students, naturally making it a dreadful experience.

“At the Visa interview, I was at the end of a long line, already worn out after the lengthy formalities at the place. The two people before me were rejected and I was next to be interviewed. Mine was amazingly short and sweet and before I knew it, the officer approved my visa,” Daniel said.

Arriving at the campus for the first time is another unique experience for students. It is when the perceptions give way to actual experience and allow the students to form an opinion about the university of their choice. Adapting to life away from home becomes a critical success factor.

“I lived in Houston for two years before I transferred so I could easily adjust to life here,” Xutong Li, a graduate finance student, said. “I made new friends and have been involved in two organizations. I enjoyed the time I spent with people from these organizations and classes. I feel the people here are all really friendly.”

Several cultural barriers are broken as students begin interacting with the local population and exploring the surrounding area. Many are surprised by the demeanor and helpful attitude of the people in College Station.

“I would never forget the elderly gentleman at the airport who offered me his phone to call back home. The people here are very appreciative of the simple things you do for them and I really like that — something we seldom did in our culture,” Daniel said.

For new international Aggies, the long list of traditions may seem daunting to learn and understanding the significance of each tradition could be a challenge. With time and with help from fellow Aggies, these students learn to appreciate and enjoy the traditions and history of A&M.

“What I really like about Texas A&M is its rich heritage and traditions,” Larisa Kovalenko, a Russian graduate student in marketing said. “I still don’t completely understand all of the traditions, but I am proud to be a part of this unique culture.”

 

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