Two years ago, Amandine Umutoni Gatali was sitting at her computer in Pretoria, South Africa, trying to figure out where to go to college. She knew she wanted to study in the United States, but wasn’t sure where. A cousin was living in Newport, R.I. so, on a whim, she Googled “universities in Rhode Island.” URI popped up. She searched for civil engineering — her intended major — and liked what she saw: a five-year degree in engineering combined with a language, a year studying abroad and an internship. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is the best thing ever,’” says Amandine, who is now in her junior year.
In fact, many students, faculty and University leaders agree. For decades, URI has attracted top international students like Amandine for its award-winning International Engineering Program (IEP). And since it began, the IEP has inspired URI’s other dual-degree programs in business, pharmacy, textiles, and education combined with Chinese, French, German, or Spanish. As a result, the number of URI students fluent in languages other than English is on the rise, with more than 20 percent of undergraduates taking a language every semester.
The University offers 200 programs in more than 60 countries and in the last three years, the number of undergrads studying abroad has almost doubled, from 315 to 615 students.
Of course, understanding a new language is about far more than just words.
At URI the tradition of studying abroad in such distant places as Nepal, New Zealand, and Guatemala among others is one sure way students learn more than just a language. The University offers 200 programs in more than 60 countries and in the last three years, the number of undergrads studying abroad has almost doubled, from 315 to 615 students.
Through their research, URI professors from Germany, Japan, Russia, Turkey, and other countries have also made their presence felt around the world; now the world is taking a seat in our classrooms nearly every day. There are more international undergraduate and graduate students than ever before choosing to study at URI.
To warmly welcome these students, as well as international faculty and alumni, the University has raised 99 flags to create the “International Atrium” at URI’s Memorial Union. The flags represent URI’s growing community of international scholars.
Now when Emma Montague longs for the green fields of England, she looks up, not to the spread-out sky, but to the ceiling in the atrium. “International students brings a rich culture to the University,” said Emma, a graduate student in College Student Personnel who came here from Suffolk, England. “This display is a huge step. Having something very visual like this communicates a good message.”
“Usually, all the international students are kind of hidden,” says Lennart Kleinfeldt, a native of Germany who is getting his master’s in chemical engineering. “When you walk around campus, you don’t see this variety. Here, it’s nicely shown.”
“Six years ago, when I was a freshman, I never thought I would be here today, walking through the union and seeing my flag,” says Alice Odhiambo, who came to URI from Kenya in 2007. “I love it. URI is showing who I am and where I’m from.”
Alice, who earned her undergraduate degree in 2011 and is working on her master’s in communication, is one of five members of her family to attend the University. Her mother and uncles are also URI alumni. Seeing her flag, she says, is enormously comforting.
“The University is not just a school for me,” she says. “It’s like a second home.”