International students join Gamecock family

Jody Pritt spent a chilly December night in a tent in the Omani desert during the 2013 winter break. The “facilities tent” was a short walk away.

Even though she woke up the next morning stiff, tired and ready for a hot shower, she relishes her trip that included dinner with a handful of Omani natives – all University of South Carolina graduates.

Pritt, director of South Carolina’s International Student Services, says she and her traveling companions are “not the kind of travelers who like everything to go smoothly. It was one of the most positive experiences I have ever had.”

The trip was a bit of a role reversal for Pritt in that she was the visitor and her former students played tour guide. Back here at South Carolina, it is her job to make sure international students feel at home.

“We really believe in person-to-person diplomacy,” Pritt says. “These students had a great experience, not just at USC, but in the U.S.

“Listening to them reminisce about USC, their experiences academically and personally, this is why I work in international education.”

One of the former students she visited talked so glowingly of South Carolina that three of his siblings decided to come here.

Hamdan Almasrouri followed his brother Mazin to the U.S. and South Carolina. Hamdan is a 20-year-old sophomore studying accounting. He says his brother shared his experiences to prepare him for studying at South Carolina.

“I didn’t really suffer from culture shock,” Hamdan Almasrouri says. “It’s amazing at USC.”

But, he says, he chose South Carolina because of the standing of the Moore School of Business. “It is one of the best programs in the nation and has a good reputation nationally.”

Almasrouri describes his home, located on the Arabian Sea, as “a garden, beautiful, quiet, peaceful.”

Pritt spent much of her time in Almasrouri’s hometown of Muscat, a modern and progressive city that is the capital of Oman.

“It was far more beautiful, with lush gardens and intricate architecture, than I had imagined,” Pritt says. “The city really has all you could want with gorgeous mountains, an amazing coastline with beautiful beaches, great food and shopping.

“But what I will always remember most is the hospitality of the Omani people.”

There are 36 students from Oman at South Carolina this year, up from 17 last year, Pritt says.

The group of graduates she met on her trip is considering starting an official alumni club. It would be just the second official international alumni organization, says Alumni Association communications director Brad Muller. The other is in London.

“We have always struggled with international alumni engagement,” Pritt says. “But the Omani alumni are already getting together to watch football games. There are a lot of people who know about USC there.”

Pritt is on her second tour of duty at South Carolina. She started as an international student adviser before leaving to become director of international services at Missouri State University. She came back in August 2011 to become director of South Carolina’s International Student Services.

By the numbers

There are more than 1,300 international students at South Carolina with about a third of those coming from China (425). The College of Engineering and Computing has the most international students (339), followed closely by the Darla Moore School of Business (305) and the College of Arts and Sciences (304). Learn more about International Programs and International Student Services.

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