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International Students in Oregon

Pete Springer/OPB

Foreign students come to the United States for higher education seeking personal growth and greater opportunities to succeed. As they juggle going to school and adapting to American culture, some find themselves facing another challenge: watching their homeland go through dramatic social changes while they’re abroad.

In the wake of the Egyptian revolution, other countries in Africa and the Middle East have sought changes within their governments. While the escalating conflict in Libya continues to dominate the news, the prospect of a civil war in Ivory Coast, and growing unrest in Saudi Arabia are getting less coverage. But young citizens of those countries attending U.S. colleges are paying close attention to events back home.

Students from the Middle East make up a growing number (pdf) of international students coming to Oregon for higher education. One of the big reasons students say they study abroad is to experience another culture.

Kanaan Kanaan helps some students bridge these two different cultures. He is himself an immigrant from Jordan, and he advises Portland State University’s Middle East student population. Kanaan strives to show how cultural differences can positively influence his students and the community they live in — a subject he also explores in his artwork.

If you are an international student studying in Oregon, what cultural influences will you take back to your country? Do you have family living in a country going through social upheaval? What would like to know from international students from  emerging democracies?


  • Uthman Binhussin: Saudi Arabian student at the University of Oregon, and President of the Saudi Student Association  
  • Basem Elazzabi: Libyan student studying at the Portland State University
  • Michele Oka: Student from the Ivory Coast studying at Oregon Institute of Technology
  • Kanaan Kanaan: Artist and Middle East Student Adviser at Portland State University
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