More than 600 international students from over 100 countries graduated from University of South Florida (USF) last month, breaking the school’s records for the highest number of international students graduating in a single semester.
According to INTO News, five foreign students won the King O’Neal Award, which is given to outstanding students with a 4.0 GPA. This year, Abdulah Barakat from Palestine, Jheuel Carter-Guy from Trinidad and Tobago, Harmelle Davis from the Bahamas, Alexis Johnson from the Netherlands and Thao Nguyen from Vietnam received this award.
“Today, you join a community of scholars that spans the world; a community that has sought truth through knowledge,” University of South Florida System president Judy Genshaft said in one of the graduation ceremonies.
“It’s a community that for centuries has chosen a relentless pursuit of possibilities. A community that treasures the value of differences and diversity of thought.”
Six graduation ceremonies took place over two days last month where nearly 6,000 students received their degrees.
More than half of those who attended raised their hand when asked whether they would stay on in their host country and work under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) programme.
The programme allows international undergrads and postgrads to get practical training in the US for one year after graduating. Students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees may apply for an extension after their one year is up.
The rest are planning to either head home or continue their studies in USF, like Wainella Issacs.
Issacs, who is from Guyana, will stay on in USF to get her doctorate degree.
“Today, I graduated with my master’s degree in engineering science and in approximately 2.5 years, I’ll be graduating with a PhD in environmental engineering,” Issacs said.
For PhD graduate Xun Zhang, the USF experience has been great and like most Chinese students who graduate from US universities, the medical student will be bringing his knowledge home.
“Now that I’ve graduated I’m going back to China to become a medical doctor, as I originally qualified there.”
Data from China’s Education Ministry shows graduates like Xun are increasingly opting to return home after graduating instead of staying on in the US, as reported by China Daily earlier this year. More than twice the number of Chinese students overseas returned to China in 2016, compared to 2012.
Last year, 80 percent of Chinese students overseas returned to China, attracted by the opportunities their foreign degree can bring them in their home country, compared to in their host countries, where they face more hurdles in the form of a tougher job market and getting visas.