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USF international students graduate at an all-time high, celebrate accomplishments and next steps

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"Today, you join a community of scholars that spans the world; a community that has sought truth through knowledge," said USF System President Judy Genshaft, to a crowd of thousands at the USF Health graduation ceremony on May 5, 2017. "It's a community that for centuries has chosen a relentless pursuit of possibilities. A community that treasures the value of differences and diversity of thought."

The ceremony was just one of six taking place on the USF campus between May 5 – 6th. Over these two days, nearly 6,000 students earned their degrees, 613 of which were awarded to international students representing over 100 countries. This is the highest number of international students graduating in a single semester in USF history.

Another success for the USF's international community was that five of the thirty-four recipients of the King O' Neal Award, given by the USF Alumni Association to outstanding graduates with a perfect GPA of 4.0, were awarded to international students. The international students receiving the awards included Abdulah Barakat (Palestine), Jheuel Carter-Guy (Trinidad and Tobago), Harmelle Davis (Bahamas), Alexis Johnson (Netherlands) and Thao Nguyen (Vietnam).

Graduation celebrations formally began for international students at the International Sash Ceremony hosted by the Office of International Services on May 3rd. During the ceremony, students received a sash representing their country to wear with their graduation gown the following weekend.

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Graduating international students received their country sash at a special ceremony hosted by International Services on May 3rd, 2017

During the ceremony, Dr. Roger Brindley, USF Vice President of USF World, asked students to raise their hand if they planned to stay in the US and work on Optional Practical Training (OPT). The OPT program allows international students to work in a field directly related to their major for anywhere from one to three years.

From a look around the room, more than half of the students in attendance raised their hands high.

While a handful of students plan to live and work in the US in their near future, others plan to bring their newly-gained knowledge with them back home.

Abdullah Aljubayry, from Saudi Arabia, graduated with his Bachelors in Computer Science from USF. During his time at USF, he became President of the Saudi Student Association and won the Multicultural Community Student Leader Award from the University. "Now, after graduation, I'm going home to work for IBM," Abdullah told INTO USF.

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Pictured: Abdullah Aljubayru, a class of '17 graduate of Computer Science at the University of South Florida. Abdullah is returning to Saudi Arabia this summer to work with International Business Machines (IBM) – Saudi Arabia.

"I'm graduating from USF with a PhD in Molecular Pharmacology and transferred here from Louisiana State University and it was a great experience over here," said Xun Zhang, who received his Masters and now PhD from USF Health. "Now that I've graduated I'm going back to China to practice my doctor of medicine, which I originally received there."

After five years at the University of South Florida, Xu Zhang, a Doctor of Medicine from China, graduates with his PhD in Molecular Pharmacology.n

After five years at the University of South Florida, Xun Zhang, graduates with his PhD in Molecular Pharmacology.

Many students belonging to the Spring 2017 graduating class expressed optimism about entering the workforce, in large part because of supports offered by USF Career Services.

"USF Career Services helped me to polish my resume," said Shahryar Tashreef from Bangladesh. "When I was attending the last career fair at USF, many employers have noted that my resume is perfectly written."

USF Career Services offers free-of-charge supports to students up to twelve months after their graduation. Shahryar Tashreef, who graduated with his Masters in Electrical Engineering looks forward to receiving a job offer soon.

Some students expressed enthusiasm about the future thanks to the hands-on experience they gained in the classroom, as well as the opportunities available in metropolitan areas such as Tampa Bay.

"Tampa is a great city, which has a developed Tech industry with many jobs available," said Tilman Koester, who earned his BS in Business Management.

Tilman Koester, class of ’17 graduate from Germany, plans to stay in Tampa Bay and find a job in the tech or education industry.

Tilman Koester, class of '17 graduate from Germany, plans to stay in Tampa and find a job in the tech or education industry.

While many students have their hearts and minds set on entering the workforce, a handful have made the decision to continue their collegiate journey at USF.

"Today I graduated with my Masters in Engineering Science and in approximately 2.5 years I'll be graduating with my PhD in Environmental Engineering," said Wainella Issacs from Guyana.

Wainella Isaacs (far right) from Guyana, just received her Master’s degree in Environmental Engineering from USF, and plans to continue her PhD at the University in the same field.

Wainella Isaacs (far right) from Guyana, just received her Master's degree in Environmental Engineering from USF, and plans to continue her PhD at the University in the same field.

There is no denying the future is bright for this graduating class. USF wishes the over 600 international graduates who now call USF their alma mater the best in their future endeavors, wherever in the world it takes them!