The College of Applied Science and Technology (CAST) not only promotes diversity, but we also celebrate scholars from around the world and encourage them with tools and resources to ensure all-round success at Illinois State. Five international students—Sangrak ‘Tom” Son, South Korea; Vania Pereira, Brazil; Joseph Jangulo, Zambia; and Frederick Adomako, and Godfred Ankomah, Ghana—share their unique journeys to the United States and becoming #Redbirds.
What inspired your choice of program and decision to attend Illinois State?
Son: When I was trying to change my profession to agriculture, one of my friends introduced me to Illinois, which is closely related to agriculture. Then, I applied to several universities and I chose ISU because they offered me the best options to achieve my academic dreams.
Agriculture is the most visionary industry in the future. People cannot stop eating. Also, I have longed for country life. I like to learn scientific techniques about breeding and farming. This major makes my dream come true. I want to run a dessert shop with the fruits and crops I produce.
Adomako: One problem most international students encounter is deciding what university to attend. However, it becomes easy to choose when there’s a university with highly responsive program coordinators and an international student office. This helped me decide ISU because I felt welcomed.
There couldn’t have been a better place do pursue an agribusiness graduate program than a university located in the Midwest. With its hands-on projects and on the field experiences, I couldn’t think of anything different.
Pereira: My first experience at ISU was in the fall of 2014 and 2015. I came to ISU as an exchange student from Brazil throughout the Brazilian program Science Without Borders. I always dreamt about studying in another country and after receiving the fellowship, I fulfilled that dream.
As part of the program, I could choose three universities in the United States. At the time, I was doing research with corn breeding, so I chose universities around the Corn Belt. I was placed at ISU and instantly fell in love with ISU and Normal. What I appreciated the most is how people value relationships with one another, how you can feel part of the University not just as one more student, but as a valued person.
I went back to Brazil after a year and a half at ISU to finish my bachelor’s degree. After I finished, I had the desire to continue my education and pursue a master’s degree. The feeling of being valued and appreciated as a student and as a person in addition to a great program and education in my area of interest inspired me to come back to ISU. I can say that I have had a great experience as an undergrad and grad student at ISU.
My choice for the agriscience program with a focus in horticulture was influenced by my previous internship at the Horticulture Center at ISU. During my year at ISU, I took some horticulture classes and became very interested in this broad field. As part of my exchange program, I was able to work during summer, choosing to get a job at the Horticulture Center of ISU in the summer of 2015. This summer, I was able to put into practice the techniques I learned in class and gained more knowledge and practice in the field of gardening planning, installation, and maintenance. It was a summer of a huge professional and personal acquirement, which increased my passion for the field and ambition to learn more, directing my choice of major.
Jangulo: The programs the agribusiness degree offered made me really want to join Illinois State. The misconception about an agribusiness degree is that you want to become a farmer. However, the career options the program’s website shared about career opportunities for agribusiness degree holders really inspired me to attain this degree at ISU.
I worked on a farm in the summer of 2019, and that got me interested in how the world’s future population would be fed. I became interested in the value addition sector of the agriculture industry and how it was financed.
Ankomah: I had a general background in agriculture from my undergraduate studies and the M.S. agriculture program in the Department of Agriculture matched with my undergraduate major. ISU has a large international community and a congenial environment for international students. I applied to ISU for the fall of 2018 but unfortunately, I did not receive an admission offer. I stayed resilient, applied again, and received an admission offer for the fall of 2019. I also had a supervisor to work with and received a research assistantship. This helped me focus on my academic pursuit, majoring in soil science.
Are you an international student in CAST willing to share your Illinois State journey? Please reach out to Chinny Francis at cefran1@IllinoisState.edu.