There are 89 international students at Ramapo from 21 different countries. Leaving home, transitioning to Ramapo and adapting to a completely different lifestyle are certainly daunting challenges that they must overcome. The Roukema Center for International Education took a deeper look at why international students decide to come to Ramapo, how they have learned to adjust and adapt to this community and how their overall experience has been.
“I first heard about Ramapo from my guidance counselor, and the scholarship opportunity and the campus environment were the key factors that sparked my interest,” said Jijeebisha Bhattarai, a freshman from Nepal.
The Roukema Center communicates with international schools and counselors to make prospective students aware about the scholarships and opportunities Ramapo has to offer. Rajesh Adhikari, the Director of International Students and Scholar Services, or ISSS, visits numerous countries while coordinating with US consulate officers, to spread awareness about Ramapo. Recently, in Dec. 2016, he was in Nepal, where he visited the Education USA Office, nine different schools and four consulting companies. He also held several meetings with the parents of prospective students.
While international students come to hear about and choose Ramapo from various sources and varied reasons, a surprisingly high number have been attracted through direct communication with an already enrolled international student.
“My brother was a sophomore at Ramapo when I started my college application process. Hearing about his experiences, my interest in attending Ramapo was always high and it was one of the first colleges I applied to,” said Anuj Bastola, a freshman from Nepal.
The case was similar with Thit Hein, a freshman from Myanmar, and Victor Georgiev, a freshman from Bulgaria.
“I heard about Ramapo from one of my brother’s friends who was an enrolled student. The scholarship Ramapo offers got me interested,” said Hein.
“I came to know about Ramapo from enrolled Bulgarian students who were friends,” said Georgiev. “The passion with which they shared their experiences lured me in.”
Of the many challenges that international students face, effective communication in English certainly is a strenuous one. Since English is not the first language of majority of the countries represented by international students in Ramapo, they tend to struggle with communicating effectively initially.
“Having to face the overwhelming language and cultural barriers was difficult. Thankfully, I was occasionally updated with American movies and TV-shows and had an idea about how life was here,” said Hein.
Ramapo’s rigorous curriculum, with small class and campus size which makes focus on individuality possible is certainly an eye-catching factor for numerous international students. Many also come in search of a liberal arts education, which they do not have in their country.
“The freedom of choice for your career path in liberal arts colleges is what motivated me the most to come here,” said Bhattarai.
The Roukema Center organizes workshops and prepares international students to deal with cultural shock right from orientation week. However, there is always something that manages to leave internationals surprised.
“I was genuinely surprised by how outspoken people here are. They are not afraid to express themselves and value individuality above everything else,” said Bhattarai.
Adding to the element of surprise, Georgiev said, “My experience has been much better than what I expected. From what I had heard back home, I wasn’t expecting domestic students to be open and welcoming to internationals. Everyone is so friendly that I hardly can tell the difference between how I am treated by domestic or international students.”
“Even though there’s so much talk of how to tackle racism, this country still seems to have so many racist issues. That is not very surprising to me,” said Hein, expressing his concern.
Overall, the satisfaction rate of international students is very high. The Roukema Center tracks progress of international students, nudging them in the right direction, and checks up on them through occasional individualized appointments and sessions. The retention rate of international students has been consistently high, as only a low number international students transfer. The natural beauty of the Ramapo community certainly adds to the happiness of international students.
“I love the community and the environment. It’s a small college, which makes it easy to make friends. The professors know you by your name and the occasional snowfall with greenery is beautiful,” said Georgiev.
Predicting a trend of more international students coming to Ramapo, enrolled international students shared their views on what prospective international students should expect of Ramapo.
“It’s a great opportunity to get to be here and once you are here, the opportunities are even more. It all depends on what you make of it, not only in classroom, but also clubs and organizations. We didn’t have such clubs in Bulgarian educational institutions, neither any of the other social events. Close proximity to New York City is another advantage,” said Georgiev.
“The learning experience is completely different from what we’re used to back in Nepal,” Bhattarai said. “The interactions with professors and diversity of perspectives just adds to growing your views on the world exponentially. Having said that, it’s certainly a wise choice to choose Ramapo.”