The International Student Experience at SWOSU
SWOSU prides itself on being a warm, welcoming university with a friendly atmosphere and comfortable feel. These are important qualities all students value, whether they grew up in Oklahoma, out of the state or out of the country. SWOSU’s international students also find a close-knit and accepting community at SWOSU, both on campus and within the Weatherford community.
Currently, SWOSU has about 250 international students (5 percent of the total campus population), and every year the numbers increase. Diversity within the student body is essential to broadening perspectives and fostering acceptance. International students are integral to bringing a diversity of cultures and attitudes to SWOSU’s campus and enriching the college experience.
SWOSU President, Randy Beutler, recently expressed the importance of the university’s international students. “They bring diversity to the university. We want all our students to have that experience in their education.”
Coming from countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia, India, Nepal, and Nigeria, foreign-born students appreciate as much as anyone the need for a “home away from home.” One way students build community ties at SWOSU is through campus organizations.
Southwestern International Students Association (SISA)
SWOSU has many different clubs for international students, including the African Students Association, Saudi Arabia Club, English as a Second Language Club, and Asian American Students Association Club.
But the largest and most diverse organization is Southwestern International Students Association, or SISA. The organization’s purpose is to provide students with a supportive community for their academic and social needs. SISA events include trips to the Oklahoma state capitol building, museums, and historic sites, all as a way of introducing students to Oklahoman and American cultures.
Aditi Sheaths is an international student from Nepal who’s studying computer science at SWOSU. Aditi is also the vice president of SISA and understands how important a support group can be for campus newcomers.
“For me, SISA is my second home,” she states. “I enjoy spending time with my SISA family. We enjoy ice skating, going to the Oklahoma State Fair, museums and all the other fun stuff. International students like me get a lot of experience and help through SISA.”
The biggest SISA event of the year is a spring formal called the International Banquet. The Banquet almost feels as if the United Nations had an annual prom, complete with each student’s dress, music, and culinary delights transplanted from the many represented nations.
Students cook dishes specific to their cultures and present them to the other guests. Because certain ingredients may be hard to track down, students take trips to other parts of Oklahoma to fill their international cupboards.
It’s easy to imagine how scary and exciting the life of an international student is. There’s leaving your family, friends, and all that’s familiar to go to a university in a new country. However, there’s also the excitement of meeting new people and broadening your experience.
Many students like Aditi return home during breaks, but others don’t get the chance. It’s easy for loneliness to set in. Staying busy can really help. Organizations like SISA can help fill time and the absence of family.
“From my personal experience,” Aditi explains, “I know it’s tough to leave your family and friends back in your country and come to a different country. But when students get engaged in programs at SWOSU, the sorrow of missing home decreases. SWOSU provides a friendly environment for all the students including international students. It helps them develop their talents and skills. I'm glad to be a part of SWOSU.”
International students have special requirements and face specific challenges when going to college in the United States. Most foreign students will need to apply for and get a student visa.
If a student wants to study in the U.S., they must find and be accepted by a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified school like SWOSU. Not all schools are SEVP-certified, which can limit where a student can go.
As one might expect, the college application process is also a bit different for international students. They’re required to prove their proficiency in English, either with language tests or graduation from an English language high school. Also, all transcripts must be in English, either originally or translated.
At SWOSU, international students and their families can find help for the application, admissions, and enrollment process through the International Student Affairs Office. For more information contact Dr. Randall Beckloff.