International student scholarship program celebrates 30 years

Portrait of students

Neha Neelwarne, left, and Jeffrey Tsang have both participated in an international student scholarship program that requires them to give presentations to the community about their home culture and country, in this case, India and Hong Kong. (photo: Theresa Hogue)

Jeffrey Tsang grew up in Hong Kong, but decided to follow in his older sister’s footsteps and attend Oregon State University as a freshman. However, being an international student was a little cost prohibitive for him.

Luckily, his sister turned out to be an excellent role model. During her time in graduate school at OSU, she was accepted into a unique scholarship program targeted at international students.

Now in its 30th year, the International Cultural Services Program at OSU is a model organization supported by International Student Advising and Services that has provided scholarships to hundreds of international students over the past three decades in exchange for their participation in community events as representatives of their particular culture.

This is a flagship program that helps internationals students by offering them partial tuition remission. In exchange, they agree to serve as cultural ambassadors, giving presentations about their home country and culture to organizations, student groups and others. The community benefits by having the opportunity to bring people from around the world to their events.

Tsang applied to ICSP at the same time he applied to OSU, and was accepted. He is now a human development & family sciences major with an option in human services.

“The scholarship has helped me greatly financially,” he said. “Without it, I don’t think I would be able to attend OSU.”

Although naturally gregarious and eager to participate in organizations, Tsang said ICSP has increased his confidence by offering opportunities to speak at a variety of locations. He said people are very interested in Hong Kong, especially in aspects of the relatively recent handover to China from the United Kingdom. And there are fun tangible items he shows during his presentations.

“The children love to see money from Hong Kong,” he said.

Tsang made friends in the program and would strongly encourage other international students to apply. He also thinks the program benefits OSU at large.

“I think the program definitely helps promote OSU and its international connections by offering international students to present at various OSU community events and programs around the area,” he said.

Neha Neelwarne is now in the final year of completing her master’s degree in interdisciplinary studies at OSU (business and women studies), but as an international undergraduate, she said she wouldn’t have been able to afford to come to Oregon State without the support of ICSP. Scholarships for international undergraduates are limited, Neelwarne said.

The social aspects of the program were also appealing.

“When applying for universities in the U.S., U.K., and Canada one of my major concerns was that I wouldn’t fit in and that I’d feel lonely,” she said. “But with the ICSP program I would have the opportunity to make contributions outside of school, and would be forced to interact with people who are different than I am.”

Neelwarne’s favorite presentations focused on her love of Bollywood film and dance, and she often incorporated dance lessons into the talk. That eventually led her to teach Bollywood dance through OSU Faculty/Staff fitness, a popular class she taught for several years.

She also found that her experiences with ICSP helped introduce her to many aspects of the Corvallis community, which has been a benefit to her as a graduate student.

“I know most of the community organizations in the Corvallis area because of ICSP, and that has proved to be a huge advantage as I continue to work in different positions at OSU,” she said. “Also, because I had to keep adapting to new situations and had to do presentations on issues that I was not really educated on, I became really good at researching and communicating well with audiences of all ages. “

A celebration of the ICSP anniversary will take place in the MU Lounge on Wednesday, Nov. 13, from 3 to 4 p.m. In addition to comments from Provost and Vice President Sabah Randhawa, as well as a number of international student services faculty, there will be a presentation by one of the current participants in the ICSP, Parth Nilesh Khimsaria of India.

For more information on the program:

~ Theresa Hogue

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