Finding their second home at TU

By Megan Bradshaw on November 13, 2017

TU’s International Initiatives office is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and has watched with pride as international students from all over the world continue to arrive on campus and succeed.

Jesus and Dulce Salaverria, a brother and sister from Venezuela, photographed at the ISSO.
Jesus and Dulce Salaverria, a brother and sister from Venezuela, photographed at the ISSO.

American high school students are researching colleges and universities and submitting their applications to schools all over the United States.

Increasingly, so are international students. 

The 2016 Open Doors report revealed the number of international students enrolled in American colleges and universities in 2015-16 exceeded one million for the first time. This is the 10th straight year international student enrollment has increased in U.S. higher education, and it has grown by 85 percent in the last 10 years. 

Towson University’s International Initiatives office is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and has seen this growth unfold on TU's campus. Staff members have watched with pride as international students from all over the world continue to arrive on campus and succeed.

Related: International admissions

“We are proud to work in the office that has now been part of exchange programs for 30 years,” said Jeremy Sanders, international student adviser and program manager. “TU has a long history, through a variety of social and political contexts, of welcoming students from abroad, and of facilitating programs for Americans to expand their horizons by studying abroad.” 

As of fall 2017, TU’s International Initiatives staff has welcomed 554 international students from 80 countries—the top five being Saudi Arabia, China, Nigeria, India and South Korea—who are enrolled in the College of Business & Economics, the English Language Center, the Jess & Mildred Fisher College of Science and Mathematics, and the College of Health Professions.

Azri and Aizad Kamal—brothers from Malaysia—focused their research on price, convenience and their parents’ wish for them to be close to Washington, D.C., and the Malaysian Embassy. And an “exciting” YouTube video about TU sealed the deal. 

Azri earned his bachelor’s degree in economics in 2015 and is currently in the applied information technology master’s program, set to graduate in 2018. Little sister Adriana also received a bachelor’s in 2015, in accounting, and now works for PricewaterhouseCoopers. Aizad ’18 is the outlier; he is a psychology major with plans to go into dentistry.

Another international sibling pair at TU is Jesus and Dulce Salaverria, who hail from Venezuela. Jesus, the elder brother, studied at home and Panama before enrolling at TU as an undergraduate, majoring in business administration with a concentration in project management and business analysis. His choice in major is inspired by his entrepreneurial parents, who have owned businesses in construction, hospitality, public transportation, retail and food.

“ …in our family, a good education is a precious gift. ”

Dulce Salaverria

“I guess that entrepreneurship initiative was somehow transferred to me,” said Jesus. “My wish is to be able to have my own business in the future.”

International business major Dulce agrees business ownership is in the genes and adds the business field provides countless opportunities for constant learning.

“I love the rush of business transactions, and the quick critical thinking it takes to make on-the-spot decisions. I love to learn new things, and I love learning new languages. I’m currently learning French,” she said.

Both Jesus and Dulce are very involved on campus. Dulce works in the New Student Programs office, and Jesus is an international student ambassador. He works with incoming international students to help make their transition to life in the U.S. as smooth as possible, an activity he calls “very fun.”

The brother and sister pair love to meet new people regardless of where they’re from. American students will probably run into them and many of the international students at TU during International Education Week (IEW), from Nov. 12–17.

See a list of events and descriptions [PDF] 

“In any given week, our campus features international experts engaging students on global topics, international students working on group projects with their U.S. peers, and countless other examples of internationalization,” said Sanders. “Campuses across the country highlight their international programs during International Education Week. This year we have 20 programs over six days. The TU community will have an opportunity to engage with the rest of the world and learn something new by attending even one program.” 

Dulce will be performing a Venezuelan dance in traditional dress and cooking Venezuelan dishes in the Newell Dining Hall where she works.

“It’s important to open up to other cultures and learn about other cultures,” said Azri. “For me, I didn’t know anything about other cultures when I was back home. When I came here I learned a lot and that people are not like how the news can portray them. You open up to everyone.”

The Kamal brothers agree one of the best things about TU is the diversity on campus. 

“I see a lot of students from all over the world. You can ride on the shuttle and see people on speaking different languages. It’s really interesting,” Azri continued.

Aizad and Azri Kamal in Burdick gym
Aizad (left) founded TU's badminton club last year, and his brother Azri is the graduate student liaison. 

International Education Week started with “Around the World” from 8:30–10 p.m. in Glen Dining Hall on Nov. 12 and continues with films, presentations, discussions and lots of food. A badminton event in 2015 drew Aizad’s interest, and last year he started TU’s badminton club, which boasts a membership of 30 students from all over the world, including the United States. 

All of the events are chance for students to get to know people from different backgrounds. Even a simple question like “What made you decide to come to TU?” can elicit a strong response.

Dulce cites the political persecution of university students during Venezuela’s ongoing political, economic and social crisis as a central reason for choosing to study in the U.S.

“We were targets of this revolution to the extent that our parents had to drive us to the university and pick us up because we could not risk being seen driving a car to the school by ourselves,” she said. “We knew we were not going to have a future in Venezuela, and in our family, a good education is a precious gift. My dad always says that it is the best heirloom he and my mom will give us. 

“We chose Towson University because it had one of the highest-rated business schools in the United States. We also felt like it was an inclusive and diverse university, and we were not wrong. We feel we belong here and that this university is our second home.” 

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel's priorities for Towson University: Creating a More Diverse and Inclusive Campus.