International students find home at UND

International Centre, programs welcome students, send off those studying abroad.


Students perform at one of the several culture nights at the Loading Dock in the Memorial Union. File photo.

It’s a place on UND’s campus where students from all over the world can feel at home while away at school.

UND’s International Centre and International Program provide services and events that help students adjust to life in another country and enhance the understanding of other cultures.

Ray Lagasse is the director of international programs and oversees all of the programs at the International Centre, which is where all of the internationally incoming and outgoing students and faculty are processed.

“The different programs we have deal with incoming students, faculty, researchers,  scholars, as well as outgoing students for study abroad,” he said.

Lagasse has a variety of staff members working with students when they are coming into the country or leaving it to study.

“We have advisors that work with the international students, an advisor that works with the international faculty and we have two study abroad programs.”

The International Centre also does offer a variety of programs for international and American students.

One of the most familiar events organized by the entities are the culture nights held in the Memorial Union Loading Dock.

“The international students can share their cultures, share their backgrounds and show you what it’s like to come from Saudi Arabia or India, etc,” Lagasse said. “You get a literal taste of their culture, their food.”

International student and civil engineering major Sulaiman Aldrees from Saudi Arabia said he enjoys attending the culture night events and helped out with the Saudi Arabia Culture Night held on Oct. 17.

“The culture nights are my favorite, and I actually cooked the food for Saudi Arabia night,” Aldrees said.

The International Centre works with the dining center to help make the different foods served at the Thursday Culture Nights and with other offices on campus for various events.

“We try to organize events in collaboration with the many different offices on campus as possible,” Lagasse said. “The more we work with others, the more effective we’re going to be on campus.”

Lagasse’s passion for his position can be traced to his college experience of studying abroad in Italy and traveling to South Asia and numerous European countries.

“When I returned, I was in many different areas of education and there was an opening for an assistant study abroad director and my international experience, I feel, was my ‘Trump’ card for the position,” he said.

The center also serves as a place for international students to relax, meet up with friends, study or just hang out.

Abdulelllah Darandary, international economics major from Saudi Arabia, says that he has about 10 American friends so far but is mostly friends with other Saudi Arabians he has met.

“Being an international student, there’s a lot of pressure but it’s a thrilling experience,” he said. “It teaches me how to be independent, self reliant and, really, no one is watching.

“The hardest part for me is being away from home because it’s so different here.  Also managing my budget and the cold weather is a struggle.”

The cold doesn’t seem to bother Aldrees.

“I really like UND, and I like the winters here because winter here is so different than it is in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I actually like the cold.”

Ashley Marquis is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].