By George Mauzy
When 29-year-old Mahmood Khoshnaw arrived at Ohio University in late August from Iraq, he was determined to move fast.
As one of the newest members of the America-Mideast Education and Training Service (AMIDEAST), an educational exchange program, his first priority was to earn a master's degree in international development studies.
The reason for his hastiness is twofold. First, his wife and 2-year-old daughter remain in Iraq and he won't see them again until he graduates. Second, he said he is eager to return to his native war-torn country to play an important role in its redevelopment.
"The international development program at Ohio University was a perfect fit for me because it is an excellent international development program," Khoshnaw said. "Iraq is the second-largest oil reserve country in the world and for the past three or four years we have had a surplus of money that has gone unspent. When I return with my degree, I plan to help the leaders effectively spend the budget by eliminating poverty and improving education and other sectors."
For his hard work, Khoshnaw was one of 105 international scholars from 36 countries and 14 exchange programs recognized Friday at Ohio University's Sponsored International Student Reception in Walter Hall. All of the students are pursuing graduate degrees through nationally competitive awards obtained in their native countries.
The students represent the following scholarship programs: Fulbright Foreign Student, Saudi Cultural Mission, Indonesian Ministry of Higher Education, Ford Foundation International Fellowships, Afghan Merit Scholars, Embassy of Qatar, AMIDEAST (Middle East, North Africa), LASPAU (students from the Americas), Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship (Soviet Union Newly Independent States), Bolashak Scholars (Kazakhstan), Ping Scholars (Japan), Algerian Embassy, Iraqi Cultural Ministry and Syrian Ministry of Higher Education.
The annual reception was sponsored by the Associate Provost for International Affairs, Office of International Student and Faculty Services and the Center for International Studies.
Associate Provost for International Affairs Josep Rota posed a question to those in attendance, noting that if last year's total of 73 students was impressive, how should one classify this year's total of 105?
"This ceremony is an opportunity for Ohio University to recognize that through these programs that bring the best and the brightest from different countries to study, we become a better institution," Rota said. "You bring your culture in a way that all of us are enriched and Athens becomes a global village."
President Emeritus Charles Ping reminded the students that while their first responsibility is to their studies, they also are here to teach.
"Each of the wonderful scholarships you hold reflects somebody's commitment that you will carry the substance of that country, that culture, that understanding in hopes of building a better international state," Ping said.
Students said they have appreciated efforts by the university and the town to welcome them.
South African Sihle Duma, a Ford Foundation student who is pursuing a master's in public administration, said he has been impressed with Ohio University's academics.
"It (Athens) is good for international students because the small-town environment is conducive to us learning and allows us to adapt quite easily," Duma said. "The studies at Ohio University are exciting and challenging and the combination of theory and practice has been effective. When I first came here last year I worked in the Voinovich Center and was able to apply what I learned in class to actual job situations."
Master's students Dyah Arin Hening and Pratiwi Wini Artati said they also have enjoyed Athens as second-year members of the Indonesian Ministry of Higher Education program.
Hening, an industrial engineering major who is thinking about also pursuing her doctorate at Ohio University, said being an international student can be hard but her transition was made easier by the support she received from the Ohio University community, especially the faculty.
"Last year, the second-year Indonesian students made my transition easier," Hening said. "Now as second-year students, we will make it easier for this year's first-year students."
Artati, an educational and instructional media major who was a government officer in Indonesia before coming to Ohio University, said she came to the university to learn how to implement creative education programs for her native people, beginning with programs for young children all the way up to those for adult learning.
"I like Ohio University because everyone encouraged me and the other international students," Artati said. "The community's hospitality has been great and very welcoming and it feels like home. It doesn't seem like I'm in another country because we (Indonesian students) are like a big family.