THIBODAUX – Those who think of Nicholls State University simply as a regional institution are encouraged to check out the 47 colorful flags hanging from the ceiling of the Bollinger Memorial Student Union.
Nicholls students hail from the 47 countries represented by the flag display.
At a banquet sponsored by the Nicholls International Community, a formal organization, representative international students stepped across a platform while carrying their country’s flag – part of dedication ceremonies days before all 2-by-3-foot flags were hung in the union. Among the 145 people on hand were international faculty and staff members.
Kanika Khapra, biology senior from India, said she hopes “this tradition of an international banquet and the honoring of international students continues.”
The student union has taken on a United Nations flavor as well as the look of the Olympics as the flags symbolize an enrollment of 148 international students. Nepal is the country with the highest enrollment of 23 – 19 men, four women. Nepalese students are so strong academically that most have university scholarships and work on campus, said Marilyn Gonzalez, assistant director for international student services. Federal law does not permit international students to work off campus, she explained.
Nepal, a country astride the Himalaya Mountains between India and China, is only about the size of Arkansas but well-known for Mount Everest. A few years ago a student from Nepal found his way to Nicholls on his own, and then less than a year ago an agent from Dikshya, a firm in Nepal, contacted the university, Gonzalez said.
“They found us,” she said, and surprised the university by submitting packets of applications ahead of time and in good order. The students were all strong academically and paid Dikshya for its assistance, but some got to Nicholls without Dikshva’s help.
What may have made Nicholls attractive to Nepalese students is a Louisiana policy that permits out-of-state fees to be waived for students who are especially strong academically and eligible for scholarships, Gonzalez said.
She described the Napalese on campus as “top students, very diligent and respectful.”
Vietnam, with 12 students, ranks second in international statistics. Other countries with significant representation at Nicholls are Canada, France and India with nine each; Mexico, seven; Australia, Japan and Romania, six each; Jamaica, five; and Nigeria and South Africa, four each.