Kent State Expands Global UGRAD-Pakistan Family
Kent State University has expanded its student roster as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) in Pakistan, welcoming international student Khizran Ali to campus.
The Global UGRAD-Pakistan program builds the capacity of a diverse group of youth leaders from underserved populations across Pakistan. The semester-long program encourages participating students to develop a vast understanding of U.S. culture and establish partnerships through U.S.-based training and practical experience in leadership positions, community engagement and in their professional fields.
Salma Benhaida, Kent State assistant director of international recruitment and admissions, said Global UGRAD-Pakistan students are required to give a presentation about their home country and complete at least 20 hours of community service during the semester to ensure they are receiving a well-rounded perception of American values.
“Students participate in a special enrichment program titled ‘Cultural Ambassadors Passport to America,’” Benhaida said. “This is a digital cultural passport, which students use to record their explorations of various aspects of American culture, such as arts, music, holiday celebrations, sports and leisure, and community life.”
Ali, who is studying architecture, says she hopes to get involved in Super Service Saturdays, an opportunity to serve the local community each Saturday at food banks, volunteering at Habitat for Humanity and raising donations for Goodwill-Streetsboro.
“Super Service Saturdays offers a visit to a new place, a different volunteering activity and a chance to interact with new people each week,” Ali said. “It will give me a much wider view of the American culture.”
Ali said she is taking American modern history to further grasp an understanding of the U.S. and the events it has gone through in the past. She said the UGRAD-Pakistan program helps her learn new things and communicate with different people from a new place.
“This platform provided a great opportunity to explore America and experience its rich culture,” explained Ali. “Also, I needed some change of environment for my own personal growth and to achieve my goals of becoming an expert in my job.”
In addition to securing an understanding of American culture, Global UGRAD-Pakistan students also bring benefits to Kent State. The students are “ambassadors” for Pakistan because many of them are the only representatives of Pakistan on campus. Their unique perspectives and backgrounds enrich the learning experience of American students.
“Many American students have not traveled outside the United States or even outside of Ohio,” Benhaida said. “Having international students on the Kent Campus provides American students the opportunity to learn and interact with people from different backgrounds, religions and cultures.”
Ali said most people she has met think she is from Central Asia, but by introducing herself as a Pakistani, she shows them how diversified Pakistan is. Ali tries to tell other students about Pakistan in a way that represents the whole country and its people.
“I think I play the role of an ambassador when I tell them about Pakistani culture, its interesting aspects, the ways it is similar or different from the U.S. culture and what values and beliefs make up its culture,” Ali said.
Ali said that overall, her time here in the U.S. has been beneficial and has helped broaden her horizons.
“I had never been to the U.S. before, but this has been one of the best experiences that I have had of traveling,” Ali said. “My favorite part of America is its diversity and how people interact with each other regardless of these differences. This diversification has further helped me broaden my horizons, and for me, America is the best example of global community.”
Ali reminds us that, although we come from all different backgrounds, we are still very similar. “In my experience, we're all very similar to each other if we accept the few differences that draw us apart,” Ali said.
“You don't really need to know the common language to communicate with people. There are other ways to express yourself too, one of them being your actions.”
For more information about Kent State’s Office of Global Education, visit www.kent.edu/globaleducation.
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Khizran Ali, an international student from Pakistan, is studying at Kent State University as part of the U.S. Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) in Pakistan.