University prides itself on diversity

Many UNA students boast successes on campus and off, and the situation is no different for international students.

UNA’s international community hosts 609 students from 52 countries ranging from Albania to Yemen. Each of these students struggles with culture shock, and most students must pass five levels of each class offered in the English as a Second Language program: Reading, Writing, Listening, Grammar and Speaking. After the completion of these courses, they are enlisted as academic students of the university, focusing on their major.

Between culture shock, understanding slang and language fluency, UNA’s international students are applying

themselves to become world citizens with a voice.

Graduate j student Yogyata Batra of Delhi, India served as an SGA senator and was also a resident adviser for LaGrange Hall during the 2014-15 school year.

“As an international student, when I first came here I felt since the culture is so different, it makes it a little intimidating for us to be part of different organizations,” Batra said. “I wanted to change this notion and make more and more friends, and learn everything I could while being at UNA.”

Batra said joining Senate boosted her confidence and taught her about writing and passing legislation.

“My committee brought forward the gender-neutral family restrooms issue, and I worked with this cause very closely,” she said. “I was very emotional the day it passed. I felt we did justice to the community who wanted this.”

Batra was able to help another successful student, sophomore Dayeon Jang of Seoul, South Korea. Jang is a culinary arts major and was selected as a judge for Florence Restaurant Week in May by Batra’s recommendation.

“Secretary Jensen Joiner came to me because they wanted an international student on the judge’s panel,” Batra said. “I immediately thought of (Dayeon) and proposed her name.”

Jang said she is the only international student enrolled in the university’s culinary program, so she felt she had a responsibility.

“I said I would really like to do something like that because I’m very shy and don’t have to do it in front of a lot of people,” Jang said.

Jang scored local foods alongside two other judges for Florence Restaurant Week May 8-16. Some students may be offered the opportunity to teach others through the university’s Critical Languages program. Courses offered include Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Swahili and Turkish on sufficient demand — all taught by native speakers.

Ali Alnasar, a 2016 graduate from eastern Saudi Arabia, has taught Arabic since 2012.

“A graduate student from the Middle East was teaching the class, but he left,” he said. “I applied and they accepted me.”

Alnasar, as a full-time student, faced the rigor of balancing school and work. He said he does not regret this challenge.

“I wanted the job because I want to share my culture and I am so grateful for the opportunity.”