There are approximately 350 international students at Tech. They come from many cultures and backgrounds.Steve Ngwira, a freshman from Malawi, Africa, is studying Manufacturing and Industrial Technology at Tech with the sponsorship friends back home. He considered attending the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Portland State University before deciding on Tech.
“What I usually did was send e-mails to the international student directors, and then I would learn more about the school from their responses, but some of the schools were a little bit rude,” Ngwira said. “One thing that got me interested in Tech was the response I got from the international student office. They were very willing to help.”
Anara Kudabayeva, a junior from Kazakhstan, is at Tech as an exchange student studying international business.
“I am here because of my scholarship program-IREX,” Kudabayeva said. “I didn’t chose Tech honestly they just sent me here, but before, they of course told me.”
There were 11 other schools to which she could have been assigned.
Since arriving in August, both have experienced good and bad things about Cookeville.
Ngwira is currently the only student from Malawi at Tech because it is hard to get a visa to come to the United States.
Charlie Wilkerson, director of International Student Affairs, helped Ngwira with the transition.
“I didn’t really encounter problems because every question that I was asking, Charlie was able to answer,” Ngwira said.
Ngwira said that Wilkerson’s dedication to getting him the information that he needed quickly made the hardest parts of the process easier.
Kudabayeva didn’t encounter any problems on her trip, but they both have experienced some challenges adjusting to the campus culture.
“It’s like there is nobody living on campus during the weekends because students go home,” Ngwira said. “I have no home this is my home!”
One thing that has helped Ngwira is the new Cookeville Area Transit System.
“This is one of the best gifts that Tennessee has given to us,” Ngwira said. “I was excited when I heard about them because now you can move freely, if you want to go to Wal-Mart, you go without thinking about how much you have to spend for the taxi.”
“I really want to say thanks to the international office because each question, even the personal questions, they always are patient to hear and give advice which really helps,” Kudabayeva said. “They have so much experience working with international students. Charlie is like our dad because…he helps us and gives us advice.