International students begin their ‘adventures’ at Iowa State

By Katherine Klingseis, katherine.klingseis@iowastatedaily.com

The waves crash against the beach as a group of young people head to the nearest club. This is just one of the events Mellanie Perez Echevarria and Jonathan W. Melendez Davidson will miss about Puerto Rico.

Perez and Melendez are both entering freshman this year at Iowa State. Perez, for one, lives in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

“Bayamon is pretty much in the north of the island, near beaches,” Perez said. “I would consider it a suburb, since its not exactly the city or the country.”

Melendez, on the other hand, lives in Cayey, Puerto Rico. Cayey is located in central Puerto Rico.

“[Cayey] is pretty much a town between a suburb of the metropolitan area and a small town,” Melendez said. “It’s up in the mountains, and overall a nice, quiet place to live.”

Iowa State has a large presence in Puerto Rico. Every year, representatives travel to Puerto Rico to hand out brochures and answer questions from students. Perez and Melendez both learned about Iowa State from these representatives.

“Iowa State did a lot of recruitment here on the island, and every time I went, I always loved it,” Perez said. “I love that little motto of theirs where they always describe the ISU experience as an ‘adventure,’ and that’s exactly what I wanted.”

Perez will enter Iowa State as a pre-med student majoring in biology, with hopes to become a psychiatrist.

“I want to study medicine because, throughout my life, I have always played the role of the friend who listens and gives advice, the daughter who helps, and I guess after a while I got used to performing that role,” Perez said. “I love to help people and I believe the most honorable position you can hold is to become a doctor.”

Melendez will be entering Iowa State as a pre-architecture major. He chose architecture because he wanted to mix his hobbies with his profession.

“I did this internship in the University of Puerto Rico with the professors of architecture there and I got to see how they worked and got a first impression of what it really was, and everyday I enjoyed it and never got tired of it,” Melendez said. “So, I decided architecture was my ‘thing.'”

Earlier this summer, Melendez was able to experience life in Ames when he came to Iowa State to attend orientation.

“What I liked most about [Iowa State] is the people there,” Melendez said. “The people seem so welcoming and friendly everywhere you go.”

Every year, students from all across the world venture to a little town in Iowa to attend Iowa State. James Dorsett, director of International Students and Scholars, and his staff at the International Students and Scholars Office work closely with these students.

“Our job is to help international students after they arrive here, after they’ve gone through the admission process and they officially arrive on campus,” Dorsett said. “[We] help them get oriented, help them learn how the campus works, help them get ready to start their classes. As they progress through their classes, if they have issues in their lives that they need help with, our offices are here to help them work through those issues.”

The largest portion of international students are from China. Chinese students made up 51 percent of the international student population in 2001. Though many international students come from Asia, there are 170 countries represented at Iowa State right now.

Dorsett believes many students choose to come to Iowa State for the university’s strong academic reputation. Dorsett said although international students pursue a variety of majors, many students come to pursue a science degree.

“If you look in the science majors, a good portion of their student population is international,” Dorsett said. “Also, kind of along with that, is the sort of the specialization you find here at Iowa State.”

Iowa State is a great college to go to if students are interested in agriculture or food sciences, Dorsett said.

“Being both a land-grant and university in the Midwest that has a lot of interest in agriculture and dealing with food, and the fact that we have a close relationship with the USDA and Department of Agriculture, students also come for those majors,” Dorsett said.

International students also go because of the low cost of tuition.

“In general, I mean I know that education is expensive everywhere, but, on the whole, education here in comparison to a lot of other places, is not so bad,” Dorsett said.

Dorsett said many international students come after hearing about the university from a friend of family member.

“People know other people who have gone to Iowa State, and they have heard that it’s a safe place, it’s a friendly place, they could get a good education here,” Dorsett said. “The atmosphere of the campus is one that’s conducive to having international students here.”

Although Puerto Rico is not considered international, the country is still a great distance from Iowa, and many people may be surprised by how many Puerto Ricans come to Iowa State. Perez has never set foot on campus, but she knows other Puerto Ricans who have.

“I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from people who’ve been [to Iowa State],” Perez said. “They say it is a very friendly environment, which is what I’m pretty much use to here on my island.”

(Posted originally on Iowastatedaily.com on July 25, 2010)

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