YSU Welcomes Record Number of International Students

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The first floor auditorium of Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business Administration building was filled Friday morning as the final day of orientation for first semester spring international students commenced.

The university welcomed more than 160 international students from dozens of countries. These students were in addition to the record 327 new international students that came in the fall.

“This is where they hear about how to be successful here and some of the responsibilities they have immigration-wise and academically,” said Nate Myers, associate provost for international initiatives at YSU.

For most of these students, Myers said it is their first time traveling to the U.S. The orientation is to integrate the students and prepare them for success before classes resume Monday.

“When I first came to Youngstown State, we were sitting at right around 185 international students enrolled, and that was in 2016,” Myers said. “After we intake this group of students, we will be at 675.”

Myers said the increasing international student enrollment likely results from university efforts to staff the international programs office with subject experts and working as a team to market the university’s offerings.

“If you’re an international student, there is no better place to study than America,” Myers said. “We are all from somewhere else at one point. Very few of us can claim that our families do not come from somewhere else.”

“I think that deep down we all know that together, and the more diverse we are – that’s our strength as a country,” Myers said. “For the area, I think it is huge because we have an influx, a growth of new ideas and new people and new workers coming in.”

Myers said international students are also essential to the university. It is part of going to the university to work with people who are diverse, he said.

About 80% of YSU’s international students are enrolled in STEM programs, Myers estimated. That largest group is made up of Nepalese students, followed by Indian and Vietnamese students, he added.

“We have students from more than 60 countries,” he said.

Nate Myers, associate provost for international initiatives at YSU.

What sets YSU apart from other universities offering education for international students is its brand and affordability, Myers said.

“Parents have come to understand that not only can they expect a college education, but they can expect an education that they don’t have to go into debt for,” he said. “Our affordability is an asset.”

Airport pickups for the students took place Tuesday, and Wednesday marked the first day of orientation. Myers said the Friday event marked the third and final day of orientation, followed by a Saturday of activities and tours.

“In addition to this being a good educational opportunity, this is a good opportunity for enrollment. We are not admitting as many domestic students as we would like as a university,” he said. “This helps to balance that out.”

In addition to increasing enrollment, YSU international programs have become a family tradition for some students.

Batool Alkarain, a sophomore from Palestine majoring in international business, said she first came to the university in December 2021.

“I have been really excited,” she said. “Especially in the orientation, you get to meet new people even though you already have friends. I like to get to know other cultures, thoughts and beliefs – that makes me feel excited.”

Alkarain said her family lives in the area, and given the choice between YSU and Ohio State University, she chose YSU for its affordability and closeness to her home.

Initially, Alkarain said it took some time for her to adapt and meet new people.

“It was not hard and it was not easy,” she said. “At the end, I adapted, and now I’m feeling more comfortable and feeling like I am home.”

Alkarain said she particularly enjoys spending time in the Williamson College of Business Administration building and in Maag Library. She also enjoys making trips to Cleveland.

After graduation, Alkarain said she plans to do Optional Practical Training to work on something related to her degree before finding something outside the U.S. and continuing to travel.

Emran Hossain, a sophomore from Bangladesh majoring in electrical engineering, also came to the university in December 2021.

His reasoning for choosing YSU was related to its affordability and having family in the area, Hossain said.

One of the biggest challenges for Hossian has been adapting to the way the education system functions, he said. Orientation is one way to help students overcome those challenges.

“Here at YSU, everything is mostly based online,” he said. “But over there [in Bangladesh], it is pretty different.”

Hossian said the orientation not only allows students to meet new people and follow up on their immigration status, but it also familiarizes them with the university and what doors will be open for them once they complete their education.

His experience at the university so far has been “amazing,” Hossian said. After spending some time studying at the University of Idaho, he decided to transfer to YSU, where he says his uncle also studied at one time.

“I do not feel homesick,” Hossain said. “Coming here and doing all of the classes, I have already made a lot of friends.”

Hossain said he tries to maintain those relationships with his new friends even outside of class. He said he also enjoys going back home and being able to spend time with family.

Like Alkarain, a favorite off-campus activity is going to Cleveland, Hossain said. Having preferences for Indian cuisine, he said he enjoys traveling to Cleveland to try those foods.

Aydin Ulus, a graduate student from Turkey majoring in mechanical engineering, said he joined the university last January.

“I am the only Turkish student at YSU,” he said.

Ulus said he would be the seventh of his cousins to graduate from YSU, with an eighth one on the way to study electrical engineering in the master’s program.

Coming from a family of engineers, after getting his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in Turkey, he decided to get his master’s degree at YSU.

“I like America’s education system,” Ulus said. “In Turkey, I learned a couple of software programs, but after I came to YSU, I learned a lot of software programs, and my mind is open when I come to YSU.”

Ulus said he came to America without knowing a single word of English, making it his biggest challenge and a barrier to making friends.

Another major challenge for him has been food. With an abundance of fast food, Ulus said he now works on home-cooked meals.

Alkaraian, Hossain and Ulus are all orientation leaders for the university, where they said they guide other students by sharing their experiences. The students said they would highly recommend it to other students.

“There is an amazing education system here, and the students and professors are so friendly and polite and helpful for you,” Ulus said. “The international programs office is also helpful for students, not only international [students].”

Pictured at top: Youngstown State University international students, from left, Emran Hossain, Batool Alkarain and Aydin Ulus.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.