125 Years of International at NC State
- By Lise Brocard, Intern, Office of International Affairs
Founded as a small land-grant institution aimed at providing higher education to the people of North Carolina, over the years NC State has become a leader in education and research. But that’s not all the University has to offer. NC State is also advancing on a global level and has the largest international population at a public school in North Carolina. From the beginning, international diversity has always been something the Wolfpack could be proud of.
NC State’s international history started as early as 1892, only five years after the school was created, when first international student enrolled at what was at the time the Agriculture and Mechanic Arts College.
Just a couple of years later, in 1898, Teisaku Sugushita from Tokyo, Japan, became the first Asian student to graduate from NC State. At the time, the Japanese government was sending international students
to the United States to study engineering and then come back to Japan towork in government positions. Sugushita immersed himself in American culture by learning how to play football and became the team’s
quarterback. Nowadays, things haven’t changed much for international students. They come to the U.S. to gain knowledge that can be applied back home, and to get a taste of the “American way of life” while
sharing their culture here on campus, allowing American students to discover new food, sports or traditions.
In the early 1970’s, more and more international students began to come to NC State. To better integrate them into the Wolfpack community, in 1973 Alexander Hall became a dorm dedicated to international students and cultural exchange. The same year, the first International Fair was held to provide the students with the opportunity to discover the culture and customs of various countries.
Today, more than 2,500 international students are enrolled at NC State. A small number are here on exchange programs for a semester or a year, and about 250 of them are here for full 4-year undergraduate program. But undergraduate students are not the majority. The strong reputation of NC State in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics) field is very appealing to many international students who wish to enroll in graduate programs and do high-level research.
Being international isn’t only for students from other countries who spend time here on campus. It also includes NC State students going abroad, be it an alternative service break, a summer, a semester or even a year abroad. They participate in building our future connected world. Students are not the only ones building ties between NC State and communities overseas. Foreign-born faculty and staff also represent a wide range of countries and NC State welcomes about 500 visiting scholars per year. These international visitors represent interns, teachers and researchers from around the world.
One of the best examples of international cooperation is the story of Harry C. Kelly, Provost and Vice Chancellor of NC State in the 1960’s and 70’s. Kelly was sent to Japan after World War II to oversee the work of Japanese scientists. Thanks to his work both as a physicist and in as an Administrator at NC State, Kelly helped improve the relations between academics in the U.S. and Japan in the troubled post-war context. His work planted the seed for flourishing international collaboration with many countries around the world.
The university recognizes the importance of understanding other cultures in a global world. Since 1980 and the creation of the Study Abroad Office, NC State has strived to provide a great variety of opportunities to be internationally engaged through its many programs. Students can be sent virtually anywhere in the world, as long as it complies with U.S. safety policies. This year over 900 students are taking part in a study abroad program, a great evolution compared to the beginnings in 1985-1986 when only 66 students were sent abroad. Students usually want to challenge themselves by going abroad. They want to see if they can live on their own in a foreign land. But in the end they learn much more than that. “My semester abroad in France allowed me to compare cultures and ways of doing things, broadening my understanding and ability to form greater opinions and values,” says senior Tatum Rees, from the College of Textiles.
There are many ways to be international at NC State, and not all of them require traveling overseas. Cross-cultural activities take place every day on campus and sometimes students don’t realize they’re part of it. From having a cup of coffee with friends from around the world in a conversation club to participating in cultural workshops with the International Cultural Leadership Project, everybody can be involved. Whichever country you call home and wherever you are on the globe there is always someone as eager to learn about your culture as you are about discovering theirs.