Photo courtesy of GTIA

Currently made up of 30 members, but representing at least 22 countries, Georgia
Tech International Ambassadors (GTIA) is a diverse student organization that began as a recruitment team set up by Undergraduate Admissions with the purpose of promoting international student admission.

Karvin Dassanayake, fourth year CMPE, current president of GTIA, was a member while the club was just a recruitment team.

“Some of my friends told me they [GTIA] gave a lot of free stuff so I wanted to see what it was about, and if I don’t like it at least I’ll get all of the free stuff,” said Dassanayake.

For him, the opportunity to have a creative outlet while studying engineering is what enticed him to get more involved in the organization. Dassanayake joined the marketing committee, eventually became the head of the committee and then president of the club.

“I have personally taken so much joy from seeing the organization grow so quickly, as well as seeing the members in it grow as well.”

Karaoke was the driving force behind making the Georgia Tech International Ambassadors transition to a full-fledged student organization. At present GTIA has two purposes; one is to promote international student admission and the other is to create a supportive environment for international students.  Changing into a club meant members could also focus on the enrolled student body. While the organization was just a recruitment team, they had a karaoke night that served recruitment purposes. The club ambassadors wanted to hold more of these karaoke nights and other on campus events, but they couldn’t do so since recruitment teams are more focused on prospective students.

International students make up approximately 8-10% of the student body. Dassanayake, an international student of Sri Lankan descent was used to having diverse classmates because of attending an international school in Vietnam. He remembers how few international students he met during his FASET. “It was hard to find common ground because a lot of local students would connect over things like Sonic or In-N-Out … students at FASET connected over those commonalities.”

Undergraduate admissions wanted the members to spend more time on outreach, but they found that they enjoyed the on campus events set up for the students, such as the Karaoke Night. Now the club hosts multiple karaoke nights held at Under the Couch in the student center.

Other events that the club has expanded into doing, since becoming a student organization in 2015, include the annual Night Market and the Career Forum. The career forum addresses difficulties that international students specifically face when applying for jobs and internships. Because US companies must sponsor any person not holding U.S. citizenship, international students are often held to a higher standard when applying for work.

The Night Market is GTIA’s biggest and newest event. The first run of the event occurred in Fall 2016 and attracted 400 attendees. When the club reached 300 in ticket sales they had already exceeded their expectations, but due to some last-minute savvy marketing, there was a large spike in ticket sales in the days prior to the event that pushed their numbers even further.

The Night Market hosted twelve different cultural student organizations and the performances were not only from student organizations but also from a local Atlanta rapper. The whole event was as if Tech Walkway was transformed into fairgrounds. The only hiccup during the evening was due to the sheer mass of attendees. Karthiv admits “We had a little food crisis.”

Overall, despite being a completely novel event for the club, the Night Market was a huge success. Its success is representative of the organization as it grows into a more established student organization. GTIA is currently accepting applications until September 22.