International Students Find a New Home at Castleton

Deborah Singiser, Director of International Student Services, sits with first year international students from Australia, Italy, Algeria and Saudi Arabia. 44% of the international students on campus this year are first-year students. 

Of all the international students at Castleton University this semester, 44 percent are freshmen.  A total of 27 new international students started classes making a total of 61 international students representing 33 countries.

The university has expanded its international reach by using new exchange programs including the World Learning Program, which is run by the United States federal government. Castleton has four students from that program for the fall semester this year, according to Deborah Singiser, Director of International Student Services.

Bayan Alsairy, from Saudi Arabia, is one of those students and she said she wasn’t expecting to land in a place like Castleton.

“I’m from a small city, so I didn’t think I would end up in another one. I wanted to go to a big city,” she said.

The World Learning Program chooses a school for its students so they don’t have a say in where they will end up explained Alsairy.

Though she wasn’t expecting to end up in a small town, Alsairy said she is enjoying her time at Castleton and said that it left a “very positive impression” when she first arrived.

Ben Mrowka, from Australia, feels the opposite way about the size of Castleton.

“The campus feels big to me. Everyone tells me it’s not … In Australia, you take a bus in, study, and go home,” said Mrowka.

Mrowka was recruited to play basketball here, which is one of his favorite things about Castleton, even though it hasn’t started yet. He said that in Australia they don’t have sports at their universities.

He is planning to stay at Castleton for four years to get a teaching degree in physical education and then go back to Australia for another year of school to get his teaching degree there.

Another student who is taking advantage of different things Castleton has to offer is Bahdja Sehli from Algeria, who is also a part of the World Learning Program.

“I keep a list of my first time doing things. It gets longer every day,” she said.

Sehli likes all the clubs that Castleton has to offer and wants to use them as a way to add to that list. She wants to try riding horses in the horseback riding club and write for The Spartan.

Clubs are a big part of international student life, according to Singiser.

“The students really take advantage of clubs… They start clubs all the time. I know this year some students are starting a film studies club,” she said.

Clubs don’t have as big of a presence at the schools that some of the international students are coming from and neither does living on campus.

Just like students don’t live on campus in Australia, they don’t live on campus in Italy, where Leena Maraldi is from. Also, they don’t pay tuition.

“Everybody thought I was crazy when I said I was coming here, to a place where tuition is so expensive, because we don’t pay tuition in Italy,” said Maraldi. She said her friends couldn’t understand why she would pay for school when she could go for free at home.

Maraldi ended up at Castleton through a program where students choose a country they would like to study in. Colleges and universities, like Castleton, also use the program to connect with students from those countries. Maraldi was given a list of ten options she was matched with and chose Castleton.

“I think I made the right choice,” she said.

Maraldi studied in the United States during high school and was introduced to baseball by her, boyfriend who lives in New Jersey.

“I turned out to be a bigger fan than him,” said Maraldi about her love for the sport.

She bought tickets to see the Red Sox but couldn’t go because the game was three days before she was allowed to come to the United States.

“I even called the Italian embassy to see if they could help me,” she said.

Though she didn’t make it to that game, Maraldi said she will get to one while she’s here.

American culture has already impacted Maraldi and these international students will also affect Castleton.

“This job offers many rewards and a lot of joy, but the greatest source of joy is the impact that the students have on Castleton students, faculty and staff,” Singiser said.

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