Can you imagine packing up everything you have ever known, leaving your family and friends and moving to a foreign country? USF’s community of international students represents 133 countries, and the majority of them are from India, according to the 2003-2004 USF Fact Book. USF prides itself on being recognized as one of the most diverse campuses in the state of Florida. Students come from all over the place to begin a new life right here on our campus. So what is a student to do when they arrive at this strange new place? Call the Students of India Association.
The Students of India Association, or SIA, was founded in 1986 with a charter membership of only three students. Now, over 15 years later, SIA has grown to become the second-largest organization on campus. This organization has worked to support not only international students, but also those interested in learning about different cultures. “We encourage all walks of life to participate, because by learning about one another, we can all learn to live together,” said USF student and SIA Publicity Coordinator Naveen Jayachandran, who came to USF from his hometown of Coimbapore, India two years ago to pursue his master’s in computer sciences.
“When I came to USF and I stepped off the plane, it was a whole new world. I had no idea about the culture, the money or what my classes would be like. I didn’t know where to go. Many students feel this way after leaving their homeland to come to America,” Jayachandran said.
He, along with many other international students, found refuge in the SIA. When the club learns of a new student coming in, SIA will meet the student at the airport and immediately the relationship of a new family is formed.
“We do free airport pickups, arrange for accommodations and assign a mentor, someone not only to help get them acquainted with their new surroundings, but to provide them with groceries, help them open a bank account and solidify transportation. These are all things that you take for granted,” Jayachandran said.
SIA was awarded the accolade of Most Active Club last year after a boom in membership. The club’s 1,032 members are all active around the USF community and the organization is responsible for co-sponsoring many multicultural awareness events on campus. These students aren’t only focused on academics, but they also participate in some intramural sports and they have cricket tournaments along with barbecues and sightseeing trips. Currently, SIA is preparing for the Republic Day Celebration, which will be on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. in the Special Events Center. The Republic Day Celebration will consist of a cultural program followed by a traditional dinner. The event is free to attend.
SIA is always encouraging new membership and meets every Friday afternoon from 1:30 – 2:30 in the Marshall Center. When asked how Jayachandran was settling in at USF, he replied, “The Students of India welcomed me and became my new family. I owe everything I have right now to them taking me in and allowing me to feel welcome at USF.” Interested students can find our more about the Students of India at http://cyber.acomp.usf.edu/~sia or in the Office of Student Activities.