International Student Council reports membership increase, invites more students to join

Lana Seiler, administrative specialist of International Students and Scholars, and Ahmad Al-Saygh, senior in community and regional planning, point at a world map. 

Cristobal Matibag

A record 3,424 international students enrolled for the current semester at Iowa State. According to figures obtained Tuesday from the registrar’s office, there are now 97 more students here from other countries than there were during the 2010-2011 academic year.

Members of International Student Council, an umbrella organization for international and multicultural groups on campus, say they’re eager for more such students to join their ranks.

“We are like the voice of international students,” said Ashok Rajan, council event coordinator and senior in electrical engineering. “Most people don’t really know who we are.”

Though Rajan thinks the council’s on-campus profile is too low, his fellow members say it has already captured the interest of more students than it did the previous academic year.

Benjamin Ch’Ng, council treasurer and junior in electrical engineering, put the council’s executive board membership at 19. Because some aspiring members were still being interviewed, he stressed Tuesday that the figure was not final. He added in an email that, counting the campus group representatives who comprised the General Assembly, the council’s total membership was 39.

Ch’Ng was confident, however, that membership would stay higher than it had been during the 2010-2011 school year, when only 14 students were on the executive board.

“More international students are aware,” Ch’Ng said. “They would like to get involved and help more international students make Iowa State their home. I would say that’s the main reason more students want to join now.”

Founded in 1984, the council coordinates several events each year. Open to all, they are meant to, in the words of the council’s website, “showcase the cultures and lifestyles of participating constituents.”

Scott Byrd, director of the council’s Humanitarian Awareness Committee and senior in history and philosophy, said the council’s annual International Food Fair — traditionally held during Veishea — was by far its most popular event.

But Byrd, who is one of two American students now serving on the council, said that it had much more to offer Iowa State than just exotic cuisine. He said he joined because he saw in the organization “a way to bridge the gap between American students and international students” on campus.

Rajan noted another gap the council bridged: the one between international students from different countries.

“Chinese people like to hang out with Chinese people and Indians like to hang out with Indians,” Rajan said. “They don’t really mix a lot.”

Rajan sees himself and some members of the council as defying this tendency.

“I know people from almost 15 or 20 countries now,” Rajan said. “I got to know a lot of people since I became a part of ISC.”

On Saturday, during the council’s annual Welcome Picnic, he repeatedly called for more students — both international and American — to participate.

“I really would encourage people to be part of it,” he said.