For Raj Mehta, vice provost for the University of Cincinnati’s International Services, the presence of foreign students on UC’s campus is a greater benefit to American students than to the visiting scholars. It’s an intriguing perspective, based on the student representatives Mehta presented during the Ohio Board of Regents’ May meeting at the University of Toledo.
“Our international students are ambassadors and teachers,” Mehta said of the three students he brought from UC to share their inspiring stories of opportunities seized thanks to the university’s international outreach efforts. “International students have powerful stories to tell, and their influence on American students’ world view cannot be overlooked or undervalued.”
Exposure to the student stories provided powerful testimony to Mehta’s assertion. And without a doubt, UC’s impact on Mehta’s young ambassadors has been nothing less than transformational. As the students shared their stories, board members had no reason to doubt Mehta’s claim and every reason to support programs such as the international program at UC.
Born and raised in the small farming village of Mangaon, India, Anjani was one of seven children who walked 90 minutes from home to school. Anjani demonstrated excellence in academics at Mangaon Junior College and was the recipient of UC’s Global Scholarship. The cultural shocks were many along the way, but Anjani surmounted language barriers and academic challenges to find success at UC as a recent graduate. She credits her immersion on UC’s campus, study abroad experiences and additional international internships with giving her the confidence to succeed.
“None of this would have been possible without the University of Cincinnati,” she said. “There are so many people to thank.”
From the town of Baiji, situated midway between Mosul and Baghdad, Iraq, Abdullah and his family fled the country in June, 2014 when ISIS took over his hometown. The family of six fled to Kurdistan as refugees. The recipient of an Iraq government scholarship, Abdullah came to UC in December, 2013 to study physics.
Speaking no English when he arrived, Abdullah took eight months of intense English training and is now enrolled in UC’s master’s degree program in physics. Abdullah credits his faith, his professors and the support of UC for his success so far. And Mehta credits Abdullah with teaching the message of hope and tenacity on the UC campus with his buoyant nature and persistence in the face of obstacles.
Prerna Gandhi’s journey to college began at Cincinnati’s Shriner’s Hospital when she arrived for surgeries made necessary after a brutal acid attack in her native India. The attack left Prerna with disfiguring injuries that remained even after 25 surgeries in India. The world famous Shriner’s hospital stepped in to help along with a Cincinnati host family and, ultimately, UC, where Prerna now studies business. “I am learning to dream again,” Prerna said. “And my dream today is to give back to others like they gave to me.”
And that summarizes Mehta’s main message about UC’s International Student program. While the program offers much in the way of services to visiting students, Mehta believes the university’s investment is returned many times over in cultural understanding and the personal, cultural contact and enrichment.