WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., March 15, 2017 — It might be spring break but for international students, the learning doesn’t stop. Many of WLU’s 63 international students travel and learn first hand about the United States during breaks and just about every chance they get.
“This semester we welcomed several new international students as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan (Global UGRAD-Pakistan). Joining our West Liberty University family were Amara Ashraf, Ayesha Nawaz, Varda Asim and Muhammad Ali Azeem,” explained Heather Kalb, activities coordinator and recruiter for WLU’s International Student Office. These students are here for just one semester.
Kalb took three of these Pakistani students to Niagara, N.Y. for a few days. They observed the famous falls and visited Letchworth State Park during the short trip, leaving them time to board a plane and travel on to the Orlando area of Florida. Other international students traveled on their own to various locations including Chicago.
“The goal for our international students is to learn about the United States and to attend college classes. In fact, they are not allowed to miss class. Other important parts of our international student education is community outreach,” Kalb said. “We encourage them to do community service and recently they helped out at the Youth Services System. Other outreach includes the Wheeling Soup Kitchen and aftercare at West Liberty Elementary School. They also visit local schools for cultural exchange. Another activity that we work hard to provide is offering a look at religious experiences and services.” The students visited various churches in Wheeling and attended a Buddhist service and a Mosque service, both in Pittsburgh, and a Jewish temple. They will also visit the Palace of Gold in Marshall County soon.
The Global UGRAD-Pakistan program builds the capacity of a diverse group of youth leaders from underserved populations across Pakistan. Through U.S.-based training and practical experience in community engagement, undergraduate students gain the skills needed to implement long-term civic and economic changes in their communities, building stability through cross- cultural understanding.
“Programs like this also are critically important because it gives our local community an honest understanding of what Pakistani students are like. WLU students and the community have an opportunity to meet them and talk to them about their religion and culture. They want to learn all about the United States but we learn too. It’s very important for us to have a better understanding of people around the world,” Kalb added.
In addition to their academic studies, Global UGRAD-Pakistan students explore American traditions through the unique digital Cultural Passport to America program, which provides students with a framework for comprehensively exploring various aspects of American culture broadly and systematically. While interacting with Americans in the community and on campus, Global UGRAD-Pakistan students develop a well-rounded perception of American culture and go on to share this understanding of the U.S. with friends, family, and others in their communities back home.
Global UGRAD-Pakistan students are also “ambassadors” for Pakistan. Many of them are the only representative of Pakistan on campus. Their unique perspectives and backgrounds enrich the learning experience for American students.
The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State and is implemented by IREX (the International Research & Exchanges Board) which was established in 1968.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the U.S. Department of State fosters mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries to promote friendly, and peaceful relations, as mandated by the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. For more information about ECA exchanges, visit exchanges.state.gov.
To reach the WLU International Student Office, please contact Kalb at 304.336.8382 or contact Mia Szabo, director of International Enrollment Services at 304.336.8270.