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Gaining global perspective

International students share their stories about life at CMU

Contact: ​Jeff Johnston

​Students from 59 countries — from Chile to Ghana to Vietnam — have traveled across the world to study at Central Michigan University this year. International students can be found at all levels of CMU's academic environment, studying a variety of majors and minors. 

Here six individuals share their perspective on life as international students at CMU:

CMU School of Music faculty member Alexandra Mascolo-David recruited Ariel Magno Da Costa while he was earning his undergraduate degree in Brazil. The music performance student knew he wanted to pursue a master’s degree in piano performance, and CMU offered that opportunity to him.

For Da Costa, adapting to a new city was rewarding but also trying.

“When you get immersed into a new language, it’s really challenging,” Da Costa said. “Your brain is really tired. Thinking in a different language is one of the greatest challenges.”

But despite being nearly 7,000 miles away from his home and family, Da Costa has felt welcomed and inspired by the people he has met at CMU.

“From the very beginning I was surprised by the general kindness of people here,” Da Costa said. “They’re very willing to help, especially when I was first adapting and was walking around lost.”

Da Costa works as a graduate assistant in the School of Music, where he teaches piano courses and performs with the choir as a piano accompanist. He will graduate in May and has plans to pursue a doctoral degree.

India native Namrata Baipally is an active member of several student organizations, including the Indian Student Association, the Supply Chain Management Student Association and the SAP Student User Group. She also volunteers with Lunch Buddies, where she meets with children in Mount Pleasant schools every week and takes part in programs and trips hosted by the CMU Office of International Affairs.

“I didn’t really know what to expect, because I’d never been to the U.S. before, but I love it here. Central has given me so much. I’m doing exactly what I imagined I would be doing,” Baipally said.

Baipally says she found everything she was looking for in a master’s program at CMU. She wanted a school that centered strongly on SAP technology, a tenacious Master of Science in Information Systems program and an opportunity to take the SAP TERP10 Certification test. Through programs like the ERPsim competition and preprofessional involvements, Baipally has received summer internship and full-time job offers.

“I knew if I came to CMU, I would have an advantage over others, which was a big factor. Now I’m looking forward to working in the U.S. for a few years after my December 2017 graduation and then seeing what happens. It’s a very challenging and exciting time,” Baipally said. .

Naoki Kimura, a business information systems student from Tokyo, Japan, knew he wanted to attend a school where he would feel at home.

“I’m from a big city, and Mount Pleasant is a cozy town, but I like it because it’s relaxed and fun,” Kimura said. “I love being on Central’s campus because it’s big and diverse and there’s always something to do; it’s probably my favorite part of living here.”

Kimura also feels at home with the student organizations he is involved with: the SAP Student User Group, Japanese Conversation Club, International Student Organization and the Asian Cultural Organization.

“I like going to culture clubs because people can learn about Japanese or Asian culture from me, and I can learn about their culture,” Kimura said. “It’s easy to make friends this way, too, because we have a lot to talk about.”

Kimura will graduate in May 2018, after which he plans to work on the West Coast of the United States.

Neetesh Sahu, a graduate student from India, knew that he wanted to take full advantage of his time as an international student. He became involved in a martial arts class and as a service ambassador in the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Centerduring his first year at CMU.

“I started thinking about joining a fraternity,” Sahu said. “I thought maybe I should make more connections, like a brotherhood, and I joined Phi Delta Theta as a founding father. Back in India, we don’t have Greek life.”

CMU’s small-town feel, and the fact that he has family living in the U.S., made Sahu’s transition less difficult, but he still struggles to connect with others from his country. Sahu is a member of the 5 percent of Indian citizens living in northern India, where they speak different languages than in the south. Sahu said that very few of the international students at CMU are able to speak his native language.

Sahu has plans to join the U.S. Army after his graduation. International students must reside in the U.S. for two years prior to enlisting.

“I was really passionate about joining the army when I was back in India, and I never got a chance to get in,” said Sahu. “I believe in one thing: wherever you live, respect the country and respect the people.”

He is pursuing a master’s degree in information systems and is hopeful that he will have the ability to use his degree in a military position.

Graduate student Samuel Ankomah was an assistant administrative officer for the Nursing and Midwifery Council in Ghana before traveling to CMU to earn a master’s degree in health services administration.

“I had this idea of improving my experience when it comes to working in the health industry,” Ankomah said. “Of all the schools that I looked into, CMU has this big heart. I say big heart in the idea to appreciate the diverse communities from different countries.”

Ankomah worked as a graduate assistant for the Master of Science in Administration program when first arriving at CMU and became involved with the GEAR UP program.

He is currently an advisory board member and an international student recruiter for the Office of International Affairs, where he conducts research on international student struggles and plans events to help students adjust.

Ankomah believes that the biggest challenge for international students is the language barrier.

“In class, international students don’t really talk because it is very difficult for them to get a message across,” Ankomah said. “I can really speak fluently – English happens to be my native language – but this is a case where you are in a country where you have to speak their language in academic work.”

Since Ankomah has no language barrier, his challenges manifest in other areas.

“Back in Africa we kind of accommodate everything; it’s very hard for us to discriminate,” Ankomah said. “But frankly speaking, I see that predominantly here sometimes. I think that it is a very touchy topic, but then, that is a reality.”

He hopes that his research will allow the Office of International Affairs to better accommodate future international students and make them feel more at home.

On weekends when Ankomah is not busy with academic work, he travels to Lansing to perform in a church band with friends from his high school in Ghana. Ankomah plays the piano, bass guitar and percussion.

Zhaojing Wang, a freshman from Beijing, China, knows he wants a challenging career in which he can contribute to a rapidly changing industry. Already a business co-owner with his sister in China, Wang knew he needed an undergraduate degree to refine his business skills.

“I wasn’t thinking about where the school was or if it was a big school, but I wanted to find a university that was the right fit for me. I wanted a university that would help me as a person when I earned my degree, so I chose to come to CMU,” Wang said.

Wang previously took classes for a year and a half at the University of Maryland, College Park, and considered studying in the United Kingdom to earn a degree. Wang said some key factors in choosing CMU included facilities like the Student Activity Center and Park Library, College of Business Administration student opportunities, and the friendly atmosphere on campus.

He is completing his first semester and making the decision between management and human resources majors.

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