Story by Jesse Wright
Drake University has received some criticism for the lack of diversity in its student population. However, the graduating class of 2016 includents students from 27 states and 18 countries.
One student who contributes to Drake’s multicultural landscape is Ili Kamal. Kamal is the vice president of Drake’s Malaysian Student Association.
She said she choose to attend Drake as part of a scholarship program sponsored by the Malaysian government.
In the program, Malaysian students who qualify academically are allowed to choose the country in which would like to attend college.
“I originally wanted to go to Penn State,” Kamal said. “It has a larger Malaysian population than Drake, so I thought I would fit in more there. I changed my mind because Drake has an excellent actuarial science program.”
Despite some initial setbacks, Kamal is enjoying her time at Drake.
“When I first arrived at Drake, I would receive some dirty looks because I was a Muslim who wore a hijab,” Kamal said. “However, once people started to get to know me, I began to make many friends. I find myself really adapting to the culture and language.”
Xingran Zheng is likewise enjoying her time at Drake, Xingran came to Drake in 2010, and like Kamal, she was drawn to the school’s actuarial science program.
“I had known people who went to Drake and told me that it had an excellent program for actuarial science,” Xingram said. “Unfortunately, when I started to study actuarial science, I realized it was not for me, so I switched my major to finance.”
Like Kamal, Xingram said her experience at Drake has been positive.
“I find the people of Des Moines to be very kind and friendly,” Xingram said. “The hardest part for me has been the language barrier. Math classes are easy for me, but when I took psychology, I found it difficult to learn all the terminology. Yet, overall, I am glad I came to Drake.”
Yuto Sakai and Takafumi Uehara, two exchange students from Japan’s Aoyama Gakuin University, also say the language barrier is the most difficult thing about attending college in America.
“Though Japanese students are taught English from high school, I find it very hard to not be able to speak Japanese at all,” Sakai said.
Sakai said he sometimes slips up when addressing someone older than him.
Uehara said he has similar problems, but that his experience has been largely pleasant.
“I enjoy studying at Drake,” Uehara said. “I have met many interesting people, and I will remember this experience for the rest of my life.”
Interestingly, Sakai and Uehara are both unsure what they will do after their college days are over.
While Sakai is studying race and ethnicity and Uehara is studying marketing, the two said they have no solid plans to pursue a specific career.
“I may want to be a teacher when I graduate from college, but I don’t like to plan my future too far ahead,” Sakai said. “I am someone who just likes to see where the day takes me and hope for the best.”