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Foreign students say goodbye to UCLA

By Dmitri Pikman

June 13, 2004 9:00 p.m.

Mako Fukumoto, a fourth-year world arts and cultures student, is
worried about finals and graduation, but she has another pressing
concern as well.

She needs to find a way to keep in touch with all her friends
when she leaves the United States for her home country of Japan at
the end of this academic year.

“I have a lot of friends here, and maybe I will visit them
in the future, but they should definitely visit my country
too,” she said.

Fukumoto is an international student, and after graduating this
spring, she will be flying back home. She spent four years in the
United States, two of them at UCLA.

She is not alone.

With the end of the academic year approaching, many
international students are preparing to head back to their home
countries after a number of years spent on the UCLA campus.

Renata Goldman, a fifth-year electrical engineering student,
will be leaving the Monday after finals week for her home in

“It’s winter break there now, so I have a lot of
stuff to catch up on,” she said.

For her fifth year of college, Goldman wanted to study abroad,
and UCLA was her clear favorite, she said.

“My uncle came here also as an electrical engineer to get
his master’s (degree), and that sort of inclined me toward
UCLA,” Goldman said.

She added that UCLA has a good reputation internationally,
presenting a very attractive destination for foreign students
wishing to study abroad.

Before coming to study here, many international students were
aware of the generally good reputation UCLA has in their home
countries, but some, like Fukumoto, had difficulty adjusting to
their new life on campus.

“I love how the people are in Los Angeles, but then I kind
of felt depressed between college and UCLA. My limitations of
English kept me back from communicating with others,”
Fukumoto said.

She added that after spending some time on campus and meeting
other international students, as well as Japanese-speaking
American-born students, she was able to start feeling “more
at home.”

UCLA is a very diverse campus, home to many students from
different countries.

“Depending on the term, we estimate that the international
office serves as many as 4,320 UCLA international students,”
said Lawrence Gower, director of the Office of International
Students and Scholars.

This number includes students who remain in the United States
for up to one year after graduation on approved work

“There is so much diversity here it is amazing.
(I’ve) met people from pretty much every country in the
world,” said Emma Traore, a fourth-year mathematics and
economics student.

“Culturally, though, the people here are completely
different from what I expected, much friendlier than I
thought,” she added.

Traore came to UCLA two years ago from Burkina Faso, a West
African country, after having spent two years in a community

The campus atmosphere still presents a bit of a culture shock
for some international students.

“It’s completely different from my university in
Japan,” said Yasuyo Nagano, a fourth-year political science
student, who will be going back to Japan at the end of June after
spending a year as an exchange student at UCLA.

“The events are so organized here. Like, there are so many
different cultural events, since so many cultures are present on
this campus. In Japan there are only Japanese students,”
Nagano said.

Goldman said she was also impressed by the extent of involvement
of students on this campus.

“The USAC student body elections were so impressive, so
much money spent by so many different people,” Goldman said,
referring to the elections for the Undergraduate Students
Association Council that took place during sixth and seventh week
of spring quarter.

“In Brazil, it’s quieter. We hand out the fliers for
a day and on the next day it’s elections already,” she

Academically, however, she said Brazil’s college system is
not that different from California’s. Goldman said she even
used some of her Brazilian engineering books for her UCLA

“The main difference here is the quarter system (where
you) have to squeeze everything into 10 weeks, as opposed to 15 to
17 weeks in Brazil,” Goldman said.

With their time at UCLA drawing to a close, Goldman and Nagano
are preparing to return to school in their home countries, while
Fukumoto is getting ready to start job hunting in Japan.

But not all international students will be leaving right after
the end of the academic year.

Some, like Traore, will take part in an optional training
program, which gives them work experience for one year in the
United States.

“I am waiting for my work permit now, and it’s going
to be part of my experience in the U.S.,” Traore said.

Though eager for her work permit ““ which she is supposed
to receive in July ““ and nervous about her upcoming finals,
Traore is even more excited about the expected visit of her parents
from Burkina Faso for her graduation.

“It’s like two contradictory feelings, anxious for
finals but also so happy because my parents are coming,”
Traore said.

“I just can’t wait.”

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Dmitri Pikman
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