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Trekking across the world: International students at DSU

November 15, 2015

When asked what their favorite thing about Madison or South Dakota was, Mostafa Haque and Koji Okayasu had the same aspect come to mind, the people.

“Even complete strangers would say ‘hi’ to me when I passed them on the road,” said Haque, a computer game design major at Dakota State University, from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Originally from Saitama, Japan, Okayasu is in his junior year at DSU where he’s pursuing a degree in computer science. Along with his favorite thing about Madison being the nice people, he said that he doesn’t miss much about his home country other than family and friends. 

“I do not miss anything,” said Okayasu, “because Madison has everything I need.”

Both Haque and Okayasu are part of the international student population that have come to Madison from all over the world including places like Belgium, Canada, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Brazil. With 19 countries represented, DSU has over 80 international on-campus students in undergraduate and graduate programs.

With them they bring their culture, their dreams of completing a degree in the U.S., and, of course, some trepidations of moving a long distance away from home. It’s no small feat to move thousands of miles away from family while being only 18 or 19 years old. Begging the question, how did they end up in Madison, South Dakota anyway?

Nelofar Sultan, a freshman in English Education from Quetta, Pakistan, had help from her American host family when looking for a suitable place to continue her education. She ended up picking Dakota State University because it’s “close to Minnesota (where her host family is from), campus size, offered her major and the hominess of campus.”

For Okayasu and Haque, they searched the Internet for universities and ultimately settled on DSU for the cost, for both living and tuition, and their majors.

“It offered the specific major I was looking for and the cost of attending school here would not financially cripple me for life,” said Haque.

While these factors initially drew them to DSU, something else has really made them stay, and it often comes down to the feeling of closeness and the “hominess” that Sultan spoke of. Okayasu stated his favorite thing about DSU was not only his academics, but socializing with his fellow students. Haque echoed this sentiment as well.

“I came for the major, stayed for the people! Amazing faculty, a lot of opportunities to network, and of course, all the amazing friends I made,” said Haque. “Small class sizes are definitely a plus. It lets one form a closer, more personal connection with the professors which undoubtedly helps students develop academically and beyond."

Another way that DSU students and staff are connecting with their fellow international students is celebrating International Education week, Nov. 16 through Nov. 20, 2015. An abundance of activities are planned to help everyone learn a little more about the cultures of current students that are from abroad, along with giving domestic students and faculty information about studying away in other countries themselves.

An always popular event that is open to the public is the Taste of the World Potluck, on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 6:00 p.m. Everyone is invited to share a dish from their home country, country of ancestry or heritage or just your favorite American hot dish. This potluck gives international students a chance to cook up some of their favorite cuisine they may miss while living in South Dakota. In fact, when asked what they miss the most about their home country, Haque and Sultan expressed that they miss their native food.

“Aside from missing family, I’d have to say I miss the food. I love a good burger as much as the next person, but some nights I just get a craving for curry that microwaved rice just can’t satiate,” said Haque.

As for going back home for the food and family they miss, only Sultan plans on possibly returning after graduation. Haque would like to continue with his master’s degree in the U.S. and Okayasu wants to find a job here as well. While Sultan really loves the standard of education in the U.S., she is thinking she could go back to Pakistan and make a big impact on education, particularly for women.

“I’m not 100% sure yet,” said Sultan, “but I would like to go home and establish an organization for women’s education while teaching at a university.”