APSU’s population is at a record high, surpassing 11,000 students, according to the official fall 2019 enrollment numbers. This includes students from foreign countries like Japan, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands.
The most prominent of these foreign students, however, are those of Nigerian descent.
“It’s about 40 to 50 right now,” said Caroline Clasby, director of international student services at APSU. “Our total international student population is 138, so it [the Nigerian population] is at least a good third of it.”
The Nigerian population at APSU is steadily growing, as well as the total international student count. Some may wonder why this population is drawn to APSU.
“We have a couple Nigerian professors here, but we have particularly a Cameroonian professor here, Samuel Jator, and he had a lot of connections in Nigeria,” Clasby said. “When I first came here, he told me he had some connections, some students started applying, so we got a good chunk of students applying, maybe 12 to 15, and of those, we were able to accept about five or six.”
According to Clasby, the best way to recruit internationally is by word of mouth. The students that come to APSU leave with a positive opinion and spread the word upon returning home, boosting APSU’s international applicant rate.
“Once those students started coming here, they started recruiting kind of for themselves,” Clasby said. “We have traveled there, but you know it’s really because the students have just really enjoyed their time here. They really like Austin Peay. They like the environment and the people.”
Many international students, and especially those from Nigeria, find themselves in programs of study concerning mathematics or science.
“Most of our students are in the mathematics, so mathematical finance, a lot of them are in engineering technology and computer science as well,” Clasby said. “We are starting to see some more in the liberal arts, but the main majority are in the math and science field.”
The way the international program at APSU works is that students do not necessarily apply through a study abroad program, but rather apply to the university itself.
“They apply to Austin Peay specifically, but they also apply to five or other so schools in the United States and most college students apply to multiple universities, and there’s a reason why they’re choosing us,” Clasby said. “All of these students have chosen us, over the other schools, because many of them were accepted by those other schools too.”
The only difference between domestic and international students is a piece of paper. International students, upon being accepted to the university, are given an I-20, which is what those students use to get their student visa.
“Our office is typically the first place they come. We’re kind of like a one-stop-shop,” Clasby said. “We greet them, and we always have an international student orientation where we talk about the cultural aspects of the U.S., we talk about how to keep their status legal, how to use the bus system, how to set up a bank account and just anything that a student would need to function.”
The international services office is the place that an international student can go to get a small slice of home, should they feel homesick, or have questions about life in the United States.
“We have an open-door policy,” Clasby said.
“We always tell them if you need anything, even to sit down and just chat, you’re always welcome to come here. That’s why we exist, to be your support system, and to make sure that you are staying here and are happy.”Caroline Clasby
International student services hold a variety of events and celebrations over the course of the school year, including International Day, which takes place every November.
“There is an international student organization on campus, and it’s run by students, but our coordinator is the advisor for that,” Clasby said. “We try to help them with ideas for events, and try to help them integrate, and to help both international and domestic students understand and learn about each other.”
The international student population at APSU is constantly growing, and it doesn’t show any inclination of slowing down.