Study Abroad and International Exchange programs provide students with access to new cultures

(EFAL SAYED/THE STATESMAN)

Stony Brook offers Study Abroad services to students. (EFAL SAYED/THE STATESMAN)

More than 800,000 international students matriculated last year to colleges and universities in the United States, and the percentage of these students who are here on exchange trips has increased. On the other end of the spectrum, the number of American students doing their studies abroad has also risen over the years.

“Once considered an educational frill, an international experience is now a necessity in today’s global community,” Dr. William Arens, vice provost of Global Affairs and dean of International Academic Programs, said on the International Academic Programs website. “Study Abroad Programs or International Exchanges may span an academic year [or] a single semester…The experience and memories, however, last a lifetime.”

Compared to the national scale, Stony Brook University also has pride in its diverse campus and the great number of opportunities it has for global involvement.

According to the university’s profile, international students made up 9 percent of the student body in 2011, a number which has continued to rise.

While there are high concentrations of students with a multitude of backgrounds, it is a noticeable fact that the Asian population is quite large at Stony Brook—greater than the average percentage at any other SUNY school. With partnerships like the Confucius Institute and facilities like the Charles B. Wang Center, Stony Brook provides strong support for Chinese culture.

The Confucius Institute at Stony Brook University was established as a partnership with China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International and the Zhongnan University of Economics and Law. According to Dr. Arens, “the Confucius Institute at Stony Brook will also reinvigorate Stony Brook University’s academic linkages with China and provide a social space for Chinese heritage students and resident nationals.”

Aside from the great presence of Asian culture at Stony Brook, there is also an up-and-coming community of students from a myriad of nations around the world and a greater interest on the part of Stony Brook students who wish to spend some time abroad.

Sophomore Marcelo Locatelli is a student from Brazil who plays tennis here at Stony Brook. He chose to come to the United States for college because he felt it had the best offering of simultaneous academic and athletic programs.

“Here at Stony Brook, I really like that there are a lot of international students. You get to see a lot of cultures and groups coming together.” he said. “There is a one-year exchange program in Brazil which a lot of people are interested in for college, because nowadays it is very important to get on an international level.”

Students at Stony Brook also enjoy traveling abroad to learn about different ways of life than the ones we experience here in the United States. Earlier this year, junior chemical and molecular engineering major Nazmul Ahmed traveled to Nicaragua with the group Friends New England to help build homes and experience the culture.

“My group leader said that while the living conditions are harsh, the people are hard working and have hope in their eyes. When I went there I saw a lot of hard-working people. I felt humbled and emotionally exhausted. The whole experience was overwhelming,” he explained.

Like Ahmed, many students on campus wish to get a sample of international travel and are inspired by the plethora of study abroad programs offered by the university, but often end up making time for such sessions toward the end of their studies at Stony Brook.

“I haven’t [traveled abroad] because my major and schedule wouldn’t permit me to miss a full semester of class. I do, however, plan on doing a winter abroad next year (when I am a senior), to either Italy or Ireland, because I am a mix of the two cultures,” junior quantitative biology & bioinformatics major Brian Ralph said.

With the world becoming smaller each day, the connections between students and universities is growing stronger and allowing for a truly amazing intermingling of cultures. Going to college is not just leaving the nest of home anymore—with programs here at Stony Brook, students are able to become students of the world.

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