In the region, we are the world

2012-11-23T00:00:00Z 2012-11-24T02:08:23Z In the region, we are the worldCarmen McCollum, (219) 662-5337

There are a growing number of students from across the world who are enrolled at local colleges and universities.   

Purdue University continues to have the second-largest international student population among U.S. public universities and is fourth overall, according to a report released Nov. 12 by the Institute of International Education.

"Purdue is well-known internationally as a premiere education destination, and this global aspect of our university continues to attract American students, too," acting Purdue President Timothy Sands said. "This diversity offers Purdue students real-world experience right on our campus through classes and student activities that prepare them for the global workforce."

This fall, Purdue University Calumet in Hammond has 659 international students enrolled, representing nearly 40 nations. Most of those students are from Saudi Arabia (289) and China (243).

At Purdue Calumet, international students have earned 625 Purdue degrees since the 2007-08 academic year, including seven associate degrees, 205 baccalaureate and 413 master’s degrees.

This fall, the average credit-hour course load is 14 hours for each of those 659 students. Of the number of international students at Purdue Calumet, an average of 6 to 10 of them become employed by the university each year -- most of whom are master’s degree recipients. They work as faculty members, guest lecturers while pursuing Ph.D. study, and researchers, said Purdue Calumet spokesman Wes Lukoshus.

Renato Vidigal, 24, a senior political science major from Brazil, is in his fourth year at Purdue Calumet. He said he came to the school initially as an exchange student but after meeting the professors and others, he decided to transfer all his credits and pursue a Purdue degree.

"This is a good experience," he said. "I eventually want to work with foreign policy institutions or an international organization. Purdue Calumet has a huge international student body. There are people here from all over the world that I can interact with."

Peter C. Kafatia, a mechanical engineering major from Malawi, Africa, is a junior at Purdue North Central. Kafatia wants to learn as much as possible at the university.

"We are a nation overwhelmed with bachelor's degrees but many people are jobless," he said. "The bachelor's degree there has no more value than a high school diploma."

As a result, Kafatia said he intends to earn an engineering management degree and a master of science in mechanical engineering.

"I would like to go back to Malawi, but I'd like to be able to make a difference and I can only do that by pursuing my education," he said.

Kafatia is one of a dozen international students on campus. International students at Purdue North Central typically enroll in 15 to 18 credit hours each semester. 

Purdue officials said the large number of international students also creates a rich, global alumni network that students can benefit from while on campus or after graduation.

A degree from Purdue University is highly regarded throughout the world, said Sue Wilson, director of school partnerships at PNC.

"Not only are the international students gaining the Purdue degree and excellent education background, but they (also) are experiencing and learning a new culture, improving their English proficiency in writing and speaking and often obtaining work experience and networking opportunities before they return to their home countries," she said. "All of these experiences serve as very profitable background for the students' future employment."

Other local colleges and universities also have international students on campus.

Calumet College of St. Joseph has two students from Spain and one from Brazil. Valparaiso University has nearly 400 international students, some 112 are from China and are in the graduate program. Fifty-six Chinese students are in the undergraduate program.

Indiana University Northwest in Gary is home to a small number of international students, said spokesman Christopher Sheid. This year, the university is serving students from Brazil, India, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan.

IUN, in collaboration with Indiana University, supports students’ global experiences and international exploration through its curriculum development, faculty recruitment, study-abroad experiences, and culturally aware student clubs and organizations, Sheid said.

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