International exchange program diversifies campus

Tracy Howard, Staff Writer

The International Exchange Program and athletics department at Francis Marion University (FMU) attract international students who bring unique cultural experiences and add diversity to the campus.

“Sometimes they (international students) can be non-traditional,” Carter-McCants, assistant dean of students at FMU, said. Carter-McCant’s job involves helping international students as they come to the United States and adjust to life in Florence and at FMU.

“They (international students) come with a variety of experiences – different experiences than we are accustomed to,” Carter-McCants said.  “I take it as an opportunity to embrace diversity.”

Most of the international students are from European countries such as Germany and France, and many are student athletes who have been recruited by FMU’s athletics department.   Tennis and soccer are the predominant sports played by international student athletes at FMU.

The most popular area of study for international students is business administration, but there is an increase in the number of education majors.  Dr. Carter-McCants thinks there are reasons international students often choose business over other majors.

“It’s a lot easier to expand in business across all cultures,” Carter-McCants said.  “All cultures have to eat; they have to survive.  They need currency or some means of trading to get by day to day.”

Carter-McCants estimates that 80 percent of four-year international degree students go on to graduate at FMU.

There are currently 11 students who are studying at the university ranging from a semester to one year as part of FMU’s exchange program.  This year, there are 60 international students on campus at FMU, but that number fluctuates throughout the year.

Carter-McCants said that she learns about the countries and customs of international students. Those students also grow from their time spent at FMU.

“I love to see how they’ve grown throughout the years,” Carter-McCants said. “Some of them have had internship experiences,  gone on to win regional titles and sometimes had some extraordinary experiences.”

Dr. Carter-McCants has spent some time studying abroad in Ghana and Scotland and uses the knowledge she has gained to aid  in her work with incoming international students.

“I got to learn more about different cultures,” Carter-McCants said. “It allows me to understand where other people might be coming from, especially international students.”

Jeremy Bonyaa, business administration student from France who plays soccer at FMU, said that besides struggling with the language, he did not experience any problems adjusting to life at FMU. Despite the language barrier, the international students have found the staff and students on campus to be kind and welcoming.

“I think the people here helped us a lot to integrate in this school,” Julian Glos, a freshman business administration major who also plays soccer at FMU, said.

Glos said that he enjoys attending classes at FMU because the community’s atmosphere is friendlier than in Germany.

“The whole school spirit is different,” Glos said.  “That’s the spirit which connects.”