WEST LIBERTY, W.Va., Feb. 27, 2019 — West Liberty University is home to 12 international students who are part of the Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program. Student-visitors from diverse countries including Pakistan, Tunisia, Vietnam, Algeria, Russia and Uzbekistan joined campus for the 2019 spring semester.
“The UGRAD students are outstanding students, and we are proud to be a host institution in this program for almost a decade,” said Mia Szabo, director of International Enrollment Services and International Student Advisor.
“These students are greatly motivated to be active cultural ambassadors while in our community, helping promote mutual understanding, provide clarity to misunderstood cultural notions and world events, and are shaping and changing our communities, through all their engagements and service projects. Once the UGRAD students leave the U.S., they see themselves and the world differently, and so do we.”
There is three different UGRAD programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of State but administered by different organizations called IREX, and World Learning.
“All the UGRAD programs send students from underrepresented countries and are extremely competitive. Furthermore, all students have community service requirements and are seen as cultural ambassadors for their home country here in the U.S.,” explained Szabo.
“Out of more than 400 students, only six were accepted for the program.” explained Sabina, one of the students studying at WLU who is from Uzbekistan, a country in Southeast Asia.
“For my country there were even more students. Out of around 1,200 only 150 students were accepted to come to the U.S.,” said Ummamah from Pakistan.
Being a cultural ambassador means a lot to these student-visitors.
“We as exchange students create diversity and we are able to give different opinions. We contribute during class and show a different perspective. After my introductory speech, my classmates were really amazed since they didn’t know a whole lot about Pakistan. Volunteering helps to get to know the community outside the classroom and it is a chance for us to give back,” added Ummamah.
“Most of the time it is just questions and answers going back and forth from both our side and American roommates or classmates,” explained Sabina.
No matter if students are sharing their culture in class, on campus or while volunteering within the community, it seems that they help build bridges between their home countries and the United States right here on the hilltop.
The International Student Office is located in Shotwell Hall and Szabo may be contacted at 304.336.8270 or at [email protected]
EDITOR’S NOTE: The students are referred to by first name only, at the request of the UGRAD program.