With the help of Shippensburg University and the programs it offers, the university is helping diversify the local community one semester at a time.
As diversity rises, the growing number of international students from the Middle East is increasing dramatically. Since the 2011-2012 academic year, the number of Middle Eastern students enrolled at SU has more than tripled.
In the 2011-2012 academic year, SU had 18 international students from the Middle East. SU now has 62 Middle Eastern students enrolled for the 2013-2014 year.
On top of the surge of international enrollment at SU, the predominant leaders of this rise are students coming from Saudi Arabia.
As of this academic year, SU had 32 Saudi Arabian students enrolled in the fall semester and 26 students registered for the spring. Out of all the other Middle Eastern countries students travel from to attend SU, none of the previous six semesters equal the amount of currently enrolled Saudi students for the 2014 spring semester.
Mary Burnett, associate dean of students and director of international programs, acknowledges that there has been an increase in international enrollment, especially from Saudi Arabian students.
“We have had more students come to us from all over the world,” Burnett said. “Our greatest increase in a particular student population has been for Saudi Arabia.”
Burnett said this spike is not uncommon. Many students are coming from English as a second language (ESL) programs, which help enable students to take the language they have previously studied and apply it to real world situations. Burnett also said it is not uncommon for students to already have a certain degree in their home country, apply to ESL programs and then apply to U.S. institutions to get a second degree in their field of study.
This information coincides with that of Sara Al Uraifi, a Saudi Arabian transfer student who has already obtained her bachelor’s degree at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Interested in gaining a degree in communications, Al Uraifi decided to look for a university that was approved by the Saudi government that offers scholarships for international students.
According to Burnett, the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission is one of those programs that provides a list of schools that Saudi students can use to gain access to universities in the U.S. Once their degree or time in the U.S. is complete, students go back to Saudi Arabia and share the knowledge they have gained at numerous training sessions, local businesses and schools.
Burnett added that she used to have a lot of students come to SU for the master of business administration program, but is now beginning to see students branch out into multiple fields — just like Al Uraifi did with her communications degree.
Al Uraifi, whose major concentration is public relations, mentioned that her time at SU has been very successful.
“I had no struggle at all throughout my academic life at Ship. It was such a smooth transition for me since I’m already used to being far away from home,” Al Uraifi said.
After her first year at SU, Al Uraifi also noticed the rising number of Saudi students attending SU. With that in mind, Al Uraifi created the Saudi Club in order to help Saudi students build a new home at SU.
“I wanted to ensure that all the Saudi students get all the help that they need, especially when they are new students. I want to be able to answer all the concerns and inquiries and make sure that they have a smooth transition to Ship,” Al Uraifi said.
“The main goal of this club is to share the Saudi culture to all the other nationalities that are in Ship and provide them with brief information about us. So far the club has been having a good turn-out, and I hope that my board members and I were able to make a difference in other people’s lives,” Al Uraifi said.
Al Uraifi is expected to graduate in May.