International Students Making an Impact
April 22nd, 2016
The University of Nebraska at Omaha campus is the most diverse in the state, with students from all across the world. What do international students learn about American’s constitutional republic or its election process? KVNO’s Brandon McDermott takes a look at where international students fit on an American campus.
Omaha, NE – There are more than 974,000 international students studying on American universities and college campuses across the country.
This figure has climbed steadily from 564,000 eight years ago. Universities like the University of Nebraska at Omaha are a place where the American melting pot can be seen on a smaller level. Jody Neathery-Castro is a political science professor at UNO.
“We’re trying to prepare them for that world and we hope that they can become sort of globally engaged citizens when they come out of here,” Neathery-Castro said. “That’s my greatest hope is that we will help them understand what the world this is really like.”
But what role does an international student play on an American campus?
“International students played a really important role. You can’t really understand the world unless you encounter the world. A lot of our students aren’t going to be able to be out and about the world prior to their experience in the university.”
As a student living in Mumbai City, India, Sagar Mehta knew he wanted to travel overseas for his education.
“Looking at the lifestyle, I decided to come to UNO,” Mehta said. “I feel I made the right decision. I like the quality of the professors and the staff and there are so many opportunities to work and learn. So yeah I think it’s one of the good decisions I’ve made in my life.”
Now Mehta is a senator on student government at UNO, who also volunteers his time helping fellow international students. He said international students get to compare and contrast where they are from with America. They also get to see democracy in action in the student government election process.
Mehta said there are several differences between American democracy and India’s parliamentary system. Both the U.S. and India indirectly elect their presidents. In the U.S., the Electoral College decides who will be President. In India, the Bi-cameral parliament votes in the President. Mehta said ‘merging’ of candidates or parties comes after the elections, which is a different than in in the States.
“So that really sucks because you voted for some political party, but you did not vote for (another) party because you do not like something about them. But eventually they get merged together.”
Also India’s Parliament’s two houses, the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are more like Great Britain (House of Commons and Lords) than America (House of Represeantives and Senate) in that it’s lower house yields more power than the higher house.
According to a 2006 study conducted by the International Monetary Fund, international students have a greater impact on their host country in terms of influencing future policy, than the reverse.
Basically, when international students study on American campuses, American society is more likely to be impacted than when the international student returns home and tries to impact their own society with American values.
“Coming to something as diverse as UNO, it gives me an opportunity to see what the world is like anymore,”
That’s Patrick Davlin, he’s an Omaha native and President elect of the UNO student government.
“It’s not just one small, very self-contained group of people, like a small town. It’s increasingly globalized, increasingly connected with people from all over the world. I think this is the way that the world should be, to a degree. We should be able to interact freely with all kinds of people from all over.”
Davlin said many of his pre-conceived ideas about international students were squelched after working with them first-hand.
“People are so concerned on how we are all different. I think if we were more concerned, certainly politically, about how we’re all similar, we could accomplish a lot more.”
Neathery-Castro said she believes in ‘internationalizing’ the university because it brings the world to Nebraska students, like Davlin, who otherwise wouldn’t get to deal with diversity first-hand. She also said she works with several people in the Political Science department who started as International Students.
Neathery-Castro said more diversity means more ideas and more voices being heard…which is the foundation of any legitimate democracy.