VERMILLION, S.D. (KELO) – The University of South Dakota has the highest international enrollment it’s ever seen with a little more than 600 students representing 70 countries.
This fall, USD has added more than 200 international students compared to last year. The Burr House at USD is home to the Gallagher International Center. Of the university’s 10,000 students, 600 come from other countries outside of the United States.
Sushant Mukhia, an undergrad from Nepal who’s majoring in environmental science, says studying in the United States is highly sought after.
“We all want to get an opportunity outside of our hometown or our country because it’s much worse there,” Mukhia said. “This is a very big opportunity for us to come out and explore and also make our careers further on moving from here and it has very good connections. It helps with a lot.”
USD has nearly 100 students from Nepal.
“As soon as I arrived, they were very welcoming and they kind of helped out all the time, whether it was going to Walmart or whether it was just inviting to dinner because they have a very good strong community, I’d say,” Mukhia said.
Anton Pratsenko from Belarus only planned to stay at USD for a semester for an exchange program.
“Unfortunately in February of 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine,” Pratsenko said. “Our war started and I couldn’t go back home. So it was support from a USD family, from the Vermillion community and South Dakota in general, and from all the people who came together to help me stay at the USD.”
With his home country near where the war broke out, he is now a full-time student at USD studying business.
“The support I received from the university, from my friends, from the community here in Vermillion, I know that those people really do care,” Pratsenko said. “They want me to succeed in life. They want me to achieve great things.”
Grad student McRay Sogah from Ghana says learning from different cultures has made his experience unlike any other.
“I get to even learn and also experience the diversity aspect of many other cultures from many other continents like Asia, even here, the U.S. and many other places as well. So it’s been a good one so far,” Sogah said.
In the international club, he helps plan events that push him out of his comfort zone.
“I realized that the city of Vermillion, one thing that played a key role for me, it’s more than just the school it has become a community,” Sogah said.
One common challenge many international students face is access to groceries. This year USD implemented an assistance program to help with that issue and prepare students for the weather.
“We take students a couple of days a week to Walmart and HyVee because almost very few have cars,” said Patrick Morrison, director of the Gallagher International Center. “We take them to Sioux Falls a couple of times over the semester to buy winter coats and go to ethnic grocery stores to get food from home.”
Other efforts to make the transition easier include a course for international students that helps them adapt to student life in a small town.
“What’s the difference between the U.S. classroom culture versus what you’re used to? What’s this Midwest culture all about? What’s polite, what’s maybe not so polite?,” Morrison said. “Those sorts of things to help really, again, kind of mentor those students through that process in that first semester.”
Although numbers are up, Morrison says keeping students on the right track, no matter where they grew up, is most important.
“Yeah we’re getting the students here, but it’s really important that we’re giving them the tools for success, to stay and to be successful and graduate on time, get good jobs after graduation, wherever that may be in the world,” Morrison said.
Computer science, business and medicine are popular majors amongst USD’s international students. India is the country most represented for international students with over 200 students.