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International Students Find Second Home in Multicultural Community

The IGSA Board at their recent dinner event.

November 29, 2016

Drexel’s International Graduate Student Association’s (IGSA) annual Thanksgiving dinner, hosted last Wednesday with the Graduate Student Association (GSA), Graduate College and PRAGATHI Indian Graduate Student Association, brought together hundreds from the graduate student community for a hearty meal and company before the University’s holiday break.

The dinner is a popular staple in IGSA’s yearly activities, which also include pre-arrival webinars, social gatherings, academic workshops and pertinent professional development. According to faculty adviser for the IGSA and director of graduate student organizations in the Graduate College, Michael Ryan, PhD, these offerings make “the transition from life oversees to life in the USA much more pleasant," with varied topics from technology and coding to credit scores and personal finances being covered.

Ryan, who founded the IGSA while earning his PhD at Drexel, added that in addition to its support services, “The IGSA showcases diverse cultures to all of the Drexel community in an inclusive manner.” Cultural celebrations put on by graduate student organizations, such as Diwali Festival of Lights, Persian New Year (Nowruz), and Chinese Spring Festival, bring global experiences to Drexel. American traditions are embraced, too, as the community Thanksgiving dinner was followed by IGSA’s annual Black Friday shopping trip.

“By hosting different traditions and celebrations, we elevate the spirit of international graduate students. Often they find a new type of family through these events,” said Tsz Kwok, associate director in the Graduate College, educational leadership doctoral student, and IGSA board member.  

IGSA President Genymphas Higgs, a PhD student from Bermuda, knows the nuances that come with being an international student and how to best prepare his peers. "I was interested in becoming a part of IGSA because their events during my first two years as a graduate student were not only socially appealing but also culturally enlightening and academically engaging," he said. "IGSA is a unique organization, in that it is large enough to have a far reaching impact, but still small enough to allow those involved to still feel welcomed and a part of a family."

Another such actively involved student is Ipshita Gupta, president of the PRAGATHI Indian Graduate Student Association. “It gives you a great opportunity to meet people from across the globe…to learn so much about the world,” she described. “I’m thankful for my wonderful friends here who are a home-away-from-home for me.”

Vital to this sense of community is the inclusivity and collaboration among Drexel's graduate organizations and partners.

“There are obvious benefits to international students pursuing graduate studies at Drexel,” said James Herbert, PhD, dean of the Graduate College and executive vice provost. “What is sometimes overlooked, however, is the tremendous benefit that accrues to our entire campus community by the presence of students from all corners of the world. In their roles as students, scholars, and teachers, international graduate students bring diverse cultural perspectives that enrich the experience of the entire Drexel community.”

Whether they're on-campus, online, or around the city, events hosted by IGSA, PRAGATHI and various other student organizations across the University, such as the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Drexel African Students Association, Drexel Ukrainian Society, Italian Students Organization, and Malaysian Students Association, offer communities away from home for international students while creating a multicultural learning environment for everyone at Drexel. 

“It’s the place where you meet the world. That’s what I love about studying in America,” reflected president of the GSA and Ghana-native, Jerry John Nutor.

Drexel’s international students from across more than 100 countries also find support in International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS), which “provides diverse kinds of support to Drexel’s thousands of international students,” Director Jessica Cordisco said. “Our visa advice, cultural programming, and advising services continue throughout a student’s time in Philadelphia and beyond graduation.”

Between the advisement from ISSS, community programming of student organizations, and complementary initiatives of Drexel departments, such as the Graduate College and Office of International Programs, there is an offering to meet every diverse interest.

Mohammad Nozari, a chemistry PhD student originally from Iran, described, “I see people from all over the world. There are so many programs, so many events going on, and so many groups. You feel like you belong at Drexel. I love the sense of belonging.”