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A Cultural Impact

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Of the 76 land-grant universities in the United States, hundreds of international students choose Oklahoma State University. What encourages them to study in Stillwater, Okla.?

“OSU is a very welcoming environment for international students,” said David Henneberry, associate vice president in the OSU Division of International Studies and Outreach. “The feedback international students get from their peers is that OSU is a good place to be.”

The Division of International Studies and Outreach reviewed student surveys and learned the first time OSU students met and interacted with someone from a culture outside of the U.S. was often at OSU, Henneberry said.

 “One of the main reasons we try to have international students on campus is because they add diversity and a unique dimension that otherwise would not be here,” Henneberry said. 

International students have the same admission process as other OSU students. However, international students are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language, Henneberry said, and obtain a certain TOEFL score to be admitted into OSU.

Agriculture plays a major role in adding to the population’s diversity at OSU, and in respect to international students, it is no different.

“Agriculture is unique and special in regard to international students,” Henneberry said, “because here in the United States we have figured out a lot of the problems associated with producing agricultural crops. When you look at how you increase production of wheat, corn, soybeans or livestock, we’ve faced most of the problems and found solutions.”

International students come from countries where such advancements have not been made. OSU gives them the opportunity to learn techniques to help them improve productivity in their home countries, Henneberry said.

“The students come here to get trained scientifically and take what they learned back to their countries,” Henneberry said. “Thus, they are better equipped to address their local problems.”

 Most of the international students in agricultural majors are at the graduate level, Henneberry said.

This year, the agricultural economics department has 22 undergraduate Chinese students who are part of a joint program with China Agricultural University, said Mike Woods, agricultural economics department head and professor.

“They are greatly enhancing and adding to our diversity,” Woods said. “We are enjoying them.” 

Ruoye Yang, an agricultural economics doctoral student from Beijing, China, earned her master’s at OSU after completing her undergraduate studies at China Agricultural University.

“At OSU, you know more about agriculture and have professors who have strong academic ability,” Yang said. “That is why I chose this program.”

Another reason international students choose OSU is the smooth transition into a new culture. 

“In international travel, if you control the first 48 hours and make sure that experience is good, it makes the entire school year better,” Henneberry said.

To control this window of time and create a positive arrival experience to the university, a group from the OSU Office of International Students and Scholars meets incoming students at the airport, provides bus transportation to Stillwater, and takes them directly to their housing, Henneberry said.

“During arrival week, which is when everyone is coming to OSU, they have a table set up in the airport in Oklahoma City,” Henneberry said. “There is a big OSU banner, and the international students all know to look for that.”

International students enjoy getting to mingle and learn new things about American culture, Henneberry said. 

One way the agricultural economics department encourages mingling is by hosting an international dinner, Yang said. Graduate students bring international dishes special to their countries, and faculty members participate with American dishes. She said the dinner is a great way for students to socialize and learn about different cultures. 

“International students love to meet Americans and have American friends, so it is pretty easy to talk to them, start a dialogue, and make a friendship,” Henneberry said. “That’s one thing that helps us also to have all of our students become comfortable with other cultures.”

 When OSU’s American students are exposed to other cultures and are comfortable with these experiences, they become better professionals in the industry and in business, Henneberry said.

Not only are international students creating an impact on campus, but also OSU is making an impact on them. Yang said her OSU experience has affected her career path.

“I want to be an agricultural economics faculty member,” Yang said. “I hope I can make a contribution to international trade between China and the U.S. for agricultural products.”  

By: Author: Caitlyn Garner 


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