International student body reaches 200

By Heather Scroering

Columbia’s international student body has reached a new high with approximately 20 new students coming in this semester from abroad.

Last semester, the international student count was 186. This semester, it’s 209, according to Gigi Posejpal, director of International Student Affairs.

“They are able to explore [at Columbia],” Posejpal said. “They’re able to approach individuals to ask questions and find people who are willing to listen to them.”

She said Columbia has made an official commitment to international recruitment. Columbia sends recruiters across the globe to visit high schools and fairs, she pointed out.

“Marketing, advertising, media: It’s not just U.S. It’s international,” Posejpal said. “If we are looking to say we are the largest and the best arts and media communications institution out there, it only makes sense that the next frontier for us is the international market.”

The international student body is spread throughout the college’s departments, but students find the Film Department to be particularly attractive, Posejpal said. She has also noticed many students coming for theater and photography.

Columbia offers several activities to all multicultural students. The International Student Organization is a student-run group that welcomes both international students and domestic students alike.

“There are people from all over the world [at ISO],” said Hanna Tanajura, a senior fashion studies student. “It’s fun to hear what they have to say and what their life experiences have been so far.”

Tanajura came to Chicago from Brazil.

“The goal is to make people feel welcome,” said Corina Ferrer, sophomore journalism student from Venezuela and president of ISO. “Most of us come here alone, and it’s a big challenge for us because we’re so far from home.”

Though its mission statement says the group is all-inclusive, the organization struggles with engaging Columbia students outside of the international student body, according to Amir Khaidarov, sophomore television student from Kazakhstan and treasurer of ISO.

“Maybe we’re not aiming at them,” Khaidarov said. “They could be much more engaged with other students. That would be even better because then they would get to know us and we would get to know more people.”

The group also raised funds for relief efforts in Japan.

Columbia is also participating in International Education Week on Nov. 14–18.

The week is a global movement to recognize the importance of highlighting other cultures through international education and exchange programs, according to Posejpal.

The student body isn’t the only part of Columbia that represents the globe. The international presence within the faculty is just as prominent.

“It brings a new and different perspective,” Posejpal said. “It’s very easy to be insular, especially if you’re surrounded by the same thing, the same vision, the same way of looking at things.”

According to Posejpal, many of the chairs, as well as other faculty and staff members, are from other countries.

“If you want to expand your horizons, you have to listen and experience firsthand other cultures with other ideas and other principles that sometimes take you outside your comfort zone,” said Marcelo Caplan, associate professor in the Science and Math Department. Caplan is originally from Argentina but has lived in Panama and Israel.

International students have also contributed to altering class curriculum. Sky Wang, a junior film and video major from China,  introduced the “Chinese zombie” to his  classmates in “Zombies in Popular Media,” a J-Term course. Wang said there are many old Hong Kong films in which zombies appear.

Columbia also offers exchange opportunities for domestic students.

According to the office of International Programs, approximately 16 theatre students are traveling to London for J-Term.

Though the international student population is still growing at Columbia, Posejpal has high hopes the growth will continue.

ISO meets every Friday at 5 p.m. in the Multicultural Affairs office, 4th floor of the 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building. For more information, contact Gigi Posejpal at gposejpal@colum.edu

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