International Students at SIPA

The following was prepared by SIPA student Abibata Shanni Mahama, a second year MIA student concentrating in Economic and Political Development.


Prior to SIPA, my concern was mostly how to get adjusted to a new environment and culture entirely different from Ghana but little did I know that there were resources at Columbia University which could easily make me feel at home. This thought vanished right away after the International Students Orientation organized by The International Students and Scholars Office which is very resourceful in getting international students settled for classes. They touched on every bit of student life in a different environment from academic, expressions, language to social life.  As part of the orientation, they  planned  activities for International students to get accustomed to the City of New York and historical places in the United States. The interactions I got from my fellow students alone boosted my morale and confidence of studying at SIPA which is situated in the heart of New York City with easy access to transport and Broadway shows.

SIPA also has a  rich blend of Student and Faculty of different nationalities from all over the world representing all continents. Each year approximately 50% of the students at SIPA are international. In fact some students from different schools at Columbia University jokingly refer to SIPA as “Mini UN”. The diversity of rich backgrounds and knowledge make learning fascinating as we learn from each others culture aside academic work. I have particularly achieved a lot of understanding of global issues pertaining to policy by interacting with students from regions relevant to my research for deeper analysis of the issues at stake.

For example, before I came to SIPA I had a little knowledge of Africa until I took courses in Economic and Political Development where a wide array of topics are centered on the African Continent where development struggles to address the need of the people that are the targets of the projects. This has given me an insight into the problems and challenges of Africa in terms of development and also paved the direction of the processes to be followed in formulating and implementing policies in the most deprived regions of concern if I ever come across similar issues after graduating from SIPA.

International students at SIPA are treated the same as United States citizens. Every student is equally important and relevant. However, the grading system of SIPA is different from other schools. Therefore it is important to find out from respective professors on their grading pattern.