EducationUSA | U.S. Campus Culture (2018)

EducationUSA | U.S. Campus Culture (2018)

November 5, 2019 2 By Stanley Isaacs


[MUSIC] ALFRED BOLL: Good morning
and good evening to our viewers from
around the world. My name is Alfred Boll, and
I represent Education USA and the Bureau of Educational
and Cultural Affairs at the U.S.
Department of State in Washington, D.C. Today’s interactive webinar
is especially tailored for international students who
are curious about what it is like to study in
the United States. Our goal at Education USA
is to provide international students like you with the
information you need to find the right U.S. institution
for your study in the United States. There are 550 Education USA
advisors at 435 centers, in 180 countries
and territories, around the world, offering
free advising services to help you. If you have questions
on U.S. campus culture, please post them at any
time during the program in the comments
section below. I’m excited to introduce our
speakers who collectively have a lot to share about
U.S. campus culture. Joining us virtually
are Elizabeth Shaffer and Ahoud Al Muqarshi. Elizabeth is an
international admissions counselor at the Haenicke
Institute for Global Education at Western Michigan
University. Ahoud is an international
student from Oman. She is currently studying
Telecommunication and Information Management at
Western Michigan University. Ladies, thank you
for joining us. Joining us in our studio
are Nasheba Alexander and Russel Karim. Nasheba is an international
student from Grenada who recently graduated from
Howard University, here in Washington, D.C., with
a bachelor’s degree in nutritional sciences
and a minor in biology. Russel is a former
international student from Lakshmipur, Bangladesh. He studied at the University
of Northern Iowa and he currently works there
as a programmer analyst. Thank you both
for joining us. NASHEBA AND
RUSSEL: Thank you. ALFRED BOLL: Elizabeth,
I wanted to start our discussion with you. Can you please share your
perspective on the value that international
students bring to U.S. universities and
college campuses? ELIZABETH SHAFFER:
Absolutely. I’m happy to
elaborate on that. First, starting with the
element of cultural exchange and learning: Having an
international student presence at a U.S.
university or campus and college creates the
opportunity for cultural exchange and learning among
its faculty, its staff, its student body, and even further that
extends into the local community as well. This can be identified
through friendships that are made, discussions
in the classroom, things like conversation
circles and other events that bring individuals
together to share their perspective and experience. And through those
experiences, we develop mutual
understanding and often become more globally-
engaged individuals. For many
universities, in fact, global engagement has become
an institutional value. By this, I’m not only
referring to the value of sending students and
receiving students from around the world. It also focuses, again,
on that shared experience right on campus. Offices like ours at Western
Michigan University set our objectives to support this
from the moment the student arrives at orientation
all the way through their graduation day. We provide activities like
major events or initiatives. What you’re seeing now
is a video from our international festival. We also host and celebrate
International Education Week each year. At WMU, our international
festival, in particular, is a major event that is
held and nearly 20 different cultural registered student
organizations prepare booths, they prepare food,
and they have presentations and performances that teach
the campus and community about their countries. This is a great example,
because the entire university and local
community joins to make it a success from university
kitchen staff and catering that dedicate their time
to cook these recipes, to the volunteers and event
coordinators that get the logistics handled, and then
also all of the community members that attend. Everyone is engaged and in
all of the diversity that we find in such a small town
of Kalamazoo, Michigan. And lastly, and
most importantly, I would like to emphasize
that every student that arrives is part
of that community, and they’re welcome. ALFRED BOLL:
That’s fantastic. Thank you so
much, Elizabeth. And also for
sharing that video. That’s amazing to see. Russel, after reading
your biography, it is apparent that you were
very active on campus during your time at the University
of Northern Iowa. Can you tell us about what
motivated you to become involved in student
government and other campus organizations? RUSSEL KARIM:
Thanks, Alfred, for inviting me
to be here today. So student government
they represent the entire student body on campus. And we work with – we work
for the students – just talk to the students and
figure out their issues, advocate for them, and also
work with the university leadership to resolve them. So what really motivated
me to get involved, when I first came here,
I knew by just getting involved with those student
org and activities on campus, it would give us a
lot of soft skills that I wouldn’t learn otherwise,
just leadership in general. And UNI – the University of
Northern Iowa has done a really good job in terms of
explaining us at the first week that you have to join
in one student org which is related to your degree, and
also one that is related to your interests – [INAUDIBLE]
student org you can join. And also how our career
counselor explained through that how it would be very
meaningful and helpful for finding internship in the
future and future careers. So I think those really
helped me to really to make the decision that I really
wanted to get involved on campus. ALFRED BOLL: Did you
feel that – you know, were you accepted as an
international student representing student body? RUSSEL KARIM: Yeah, so – I
think, yes, student body, because we represent – UNI I
think they foster a culture of very inclusive and
diverse environment for us. When I came in, I think I
was a little shocked – they were very welcoming on
campus and how many opportunities are out there
just for international students available
on campus. And I think it was
very welcoming, just not only
by the students, but also the leadership,
they welcomed us and really if we needed
something extra, they would kind of
provide those as well. That was really amazing. ALFRED BOLL:
That’s incredible. Was your nature as an
international student actually something
that helped, because you brought a
different perspective to, you know, student government
and to deliberations about how the university
should manage itself? RUSSEL KARIM:
Yes, definitely. I think one example would be
when I was a student on our dining center, a lot of
international students, they are like students who
didn’t go home during the academic break, like
Christmas or Thanksgiving, they wouldn’t get food, so as international student
I kind of felt that we brought in the university
leadership from provost to president, and actually
I was able to implement meal plan during the break. So just seeing from
that perspective, I think that kind of helped
and even representing the students – that was really
amazing experience. ALFRED BOLL: That’s amazing. Congratulations
and thank you. RUSSEL KARIM:
Yeah, thank you. ALFRED BOLL: Nasheba, you came
from St. Patrick’s, Grenada, and recently graduated
from Howard University. Can you tell us about
your time at Howard? I know that you were
very involved with extracurricular activities. NASHEBA ALEXANDER:
Thank you for having me, and nice to meet
you, Russel. Yes, I’m from St.
Patrick’s, Grenada, and it’s a beautiful island
that has a lot of young professionals like myself. And at Howard, I loved
my experienced there. Howard fosters a culture
of so much diversity. You can find almost anyone
from any part of the country, any part
of the world here, so which was really good. Coming from Grenada, I
didn’t know what to expect because I haven’t been to
a big university before, but being there, you come
with your uniqueness and what you like, what are
you passionate about, how creative are you, and
to piggyback off on what Russel said upon
international orientation, which you get at the first
week at school at Howard University, they will
emphasize that you have to join organizations, one of
your interests and one of any other social events. So that’s what happened. And I love food, so when
I realized there was no nutrition club, nothing to
do with food at Howard, I readily revamped
it; it was not an official organization,
but now it is. We put in the
work tirelessly. We had cooking classes. We didn’t just
focus on food. We also had
résumé-building workshops, we went in the community, we
served and we had luncheon. My favorite part was the
luncheon fundraiser and the cooking classes, because
that brought in a lot of the faculty, the staff, and the
students – everybody in one place at our kitchen at
Howard where we worked and prepared nutritious
and healthy meals. ALFRED BOLL: It’s super
impressive to hear that it didn’t just have an effect
on the university but in the community. NASHEBA ALEXANDER: Yes. ALFRED BOLL: So is it
something – would you say it’s a typical campus
experience at Howard for people also to be involved
in the community here in Washington, D.C.? NASHEBA ALEXANDER: Yes. Howard has more than 140
clubs and organizations, so it means that there’s
something for everyone, whether you’re into
reading, you’re into drama, you’re into art, anything
is not just academic but also social. And there is Howard University
Community Service Day, which is huge, and you
get to help and serve those in the community. There are a lot of
things you have to do. We did Ward 7, Ward
8 Community Service. We also did Food
and friends, this Essential Kitchen. There is a lot –
there’s so much there, even research you
can do on-campus. You can be part of the
research as well or you can conduct it firsthand
or secondhand. ALFRED BOLL: Very
interesting. One last question: I know
that you were a part of a regional association
– a Caribbean students association. Were there students’
associations from around the world and is that something
that is typical on campus? NASHEBA ALEXANDER: Yes. At Howard University
we have [INAUDIBLE] international students. So that’s for everybody. The Caribbean Student
Association is mostly for the Caribbean students. So you’re meeting everybody
else that are international students, and then you
also branch off into just Caribbean, so you meet
people from Jamaica, Trinidad, Montserrat, Antigua,
Grenada, like myself, and that uniqueness, we
have what are called the International Tree –
the Caribbean Tree – they go there and
just enjoy, you know, you just really enjoy the
experience, which I did. Immerse yourself
in the culture, network because
that’s what it’s for. It really help you to
succeed because when you’re involved in
so many other things, opportunities are
provided for you. You get to go
to conferences, you get to do so much and
get affiliated with other networks and other groups. ALFRED BOLL: Were there any
organizations that you were surprised to see that
you thought, oh, wow? NASHEBA ALEXANDER:
[LAUGHING] Yes. There was one –
it was dancing. It was a different type
of dance I’ve never seen before, but I was like, this
type of dance they’re doing, and that’s an actual club,
which I thought it was different but it was nice
because it brought so much as to say keep who you are,
bring your uniqueness, and that’s what makes
it even more beautiful. ALFRED BOLL: Respect for the
individual and empowering it [INAUDIBLE]. NASHEBA ALEXANDER: Yes. ALFRED BOLL: That’s fantastic.
Thank you so much. I’m glad to hear about
these great examples. NASHEBA ALEXANDER:
Thank you so much. ALFRED BOLL: Congratulations
on your work on nutrition because we know that’s so
important for all of us. NASHEBA ALEXANDER:
Yes. Yes. Thank you. ALFRED BOLL: Thank you. So I would like to
turn to you, Ahoud, and ask if you could speak
a little bit about your experience on campus culture
and also religious life at Western Michigan University. AHOUD AL MUQARSHI: Sure. So when I first came
to the United States, my first decision was
to live on campus, not just to be close to my
classes but also to give myself a chance to be part
of the campus culture and campus life as well. With living on campus, I
experienced how much it’s important to be globally
engaged with other people. Here, especially at Western
Michigan University, there are so many students
from different countries, so it was so interesting
to live in the campus, join different activity
and share my culture. I get a lot of motivation
and to be proud of myself and proud of my culture,
and to share my culture, to be more outgoing. And about my religion life,
I was worried a lot before I came here about how to
practice my religion in a non-Muslim country, but when
I first came to Western Michigan University, I saw
that everyone had freedom to practice their religion,
whether if they’re Christian, Muslim or
any other religion. This makes me feel so
comfortable and the campus also provide us with five
different rooms to pray and we got a very big support
from the campus to start our Muslim international
Student Muslim Association, and they also support us
to participate with other organization and to share
our religion and also not be shy to talk about the
problems facing Muslims and it make me feel comfortable
that everyone [INAUDIBLE] respect us here and support
us and our organization. ALFRED BOLL:
That’s fascinating and great to hear. Let me ask you, is
there – you know, so you said the Muslim
Student Association also sometimes works with other
student associations and that people sort of, you
know, see each other; they learn about you and
about your association. Are there any groups that
you have especially done things with or any
activities or will people come to your activities
to learn about Islam, for example? AHOUD AL MUQARSHI:
Yeah, actually, in Western every fall we
have like a Bronco Bash where all the organizations
share their what is their organization for
and all the things, and we’ve got a booth
for our organization where we can answer the
student question about the organization. We also participate with so
many events last semester about Islamophobia,
and we also – like, near the campus, we have
Islamic Center – it’s a very large community where
Muslims can go together to participate there, and
because in Kalamazoo we have a very large amount
of refugees from Syria and other countries, so there’s
so many organizations in Kalamazoo we’re concerned
about helping those people, we participate to do the
same thing with them to cooperate with them
and help those people. We also participate in some
events inside the campus with other organizations,
like His House and some other organizations
for different events, such as – like the
American holidays. For example, we’re having a
Halloween for next two weeks where we just don’t care and
encourage the student to get to know other cultures and
not just stuck with our culture things. So yeah – ALFRED BOLL:
That’s fantastic. Thank you so much. That’s very valuable
information for our viewers. Russel, I know that during
your time in college you served as President of the
Muslim Student Association, is that right? RUSSEL KARIM: Yes. So I think, as a Muslim,
as she mentioned, there’s a lot of freedom on
campus for practicing your religion, your culture. I mean, U.S. campus they’re
very inclusive campus. So for us, we brought
a lot of speakers. Last year, I think we had
interfaith dialogue where we bring an imam, we brought a
rabbi, we brought a pastor, and really talked through
what it likes to and really educate the campus and
educate our study body about interfaith religion. We also have done really
interesting experiment with some American student
wearing hijab on campus for a week. So some of our volunteer
students they actually wore hijab and see how it is to
wear hijab on campus and really get that experience. So I think, you know, in
University of Northern Iowa they had really facilitated
those for us and really made it possible to practice. And, you know, [INAUDIBLE]
all those universities in the U.S. are very
inclusive and allow practice whatever you believe in. ALFRED BOLL:
That’s fantastic. Thank you so much. Those are – it’s great to
hear and great examples, I’m Sure. It is now time to check
in with our viewers on Facebook, and to
answer your questions. Our first question is
about differences in classroom culture. So a viewer is asking: “What
was the biggest difference you experienced between
classrooms in the U.S. and in your home country?” Can I start with you, Ahoud? AHOUD AL MUQARSHI: Okay. So when I start at my
academic classes here, I noticed that the
relationship between the professor and the
students is more close, more friendly. Like, if I have a question,
I will just feel free to go to their office hours, ask
them or ask in the class with no advance
or something. So that makes me feel good
’cause back home we give more respect to
the professor, so I cannot ask a
question in the lecture, I have to wait after the
lecture to ask anything. So, yeah, this give me
more comfortable to talk in the class. If I have something
I wanna say, I will just raise my hand
and say it comfortably and all that things. It’s hard to start academic
classes for international like just the first semester
when you see so many Americans around you, and
you feel like your level is the lowest one in the
class, but after that, you will just start to feel
like we’re all doing good, so participating
in the class, asking question it’s so
helpful for international student to know more about
the class and also to show to the professor that you
really care about doing good even if this is not
your first language, but you’re doing – you’re
putting all your effort to just attending a class, do
all the class things and all those things. So yeah. ALFRED BOLL: Thank you
very much, that’s great. Nasheba, let me ask
you the same question. Was there a big difference
you experienced or? NASHEBA ALEXANDER: It wasn’t
a big difference in terms of connecting with your
professors or your teachers. In my country, in Grenada,
the teachers are very good with you. You are allowed to
make discussions, you are allowed to
engage and interact, likewise as here. The only difference was that
for the general classes, the classroom teacher to
pupil per professor ratio, it was big for the
general classes, but when it comes to
your core classes, you had a more intimate,
small group classes where you can – and I felt the
same way as my country in Grenada, so that wasn’t
different at all, which is good. The only difference is how
we look at the content. Back in my country and
here was different, but because there is
so much support here, and especially at
Howard University, the professors they prepare
a lot of resources for you, they support you. There are students
that assist you, like teacher assistants, and
they help you with that. ALFRED BOLL: Okay. Karim, let me ask you, I
know one of the things that you hear in relation to this
question is that sometimes teachers in the U.S.
can be kind of direct, they can call on
you, and I mean, is that a difference? What was your
experience like? RUSSEL KARIM: So I
think my experience, here teachers
are very direct, but they have very direct
expectations from you. So I think first you have
the class, you know, the professors they will
kind of lay down their expectation that you have to
do the class participations and also I think one of the
big difference I found that the research opportunities
on undergrad level in the U.S. universities,
and I came from UNI, and as a computer
science major, I was able to directly work
with my professor and do undergrad research, and
so I think that was really interesting opportunity
for undergrad. And also, you know,
as they mentioned, office hours are
very helpful. And another thing I really
found – I think I wanna add it to yours – very
interesting that liberal arts classes, and I think
back home in the classroom you just focus if you’re
studying chemistry or physics, you study
chemistry and physics. But having opportunity
to learn – for me, I have taken 45 liberal
art classes; like, I was taking astronomy, I
was taking fun classes, theatre classes, so they
just actually open up and widened the
knowledge for us, and I think that was really
a big difference in the U.S. classrooms. ALFRED BOLL: Absolutely.
Thank you for that. Those are very
valuable perspectives. So I realize we have a lot
of questions from Facebook. The next one is:
“What is it like to live in a dormitory?” Nasheba, did you
live in a dorm? NASHEBA ALEXANDER: Yes, I lived
in a dorm at Howard University for two years and I moved
off campus for my last. But it was very good. I actually worked as
a Resident Assistant, which is an RA. So you are the
leader of that floor. But before I became an
RA, I was just a resident, and that was very
interactive, because there are
hall programs, there are dorm programs,
there are competitions between dorms. So like you get to – either
you dance, you sing, you step – a lot of
stuff, it was fun. And some of the dorms are
attached to a dining center, so you can get your food. So one of the dorms that I
lived in, which is an annex, there was a dining
center there, so you don’t have to go
far to get your food, and everything is
accessible, which is nice. It is very good. We have study rooms, we have
computer rooms in our dorms. So that’s good. ALFRED BOLL: Okay, so it
brings everybody together. NASHEBA ALEXANDER:
Everybody together. ALFRED BOLL: It fosters a
common environment and you have lots of resources
concentrated. NASHEBA ALEXANDER: Lots
of resources. A lot. ALFRED BOLL: Okay.
Interesting. That’s great. So our next question is:
“How do universities protect students from discrimination
and how do they foster a multicultural environment? Let me ask you that,
Russel, I mean, especially your time in government
– student government. RUSSEL KARIM: So I think
university we have like dean of students. They kind
of represent students. So we have Title IX Officer
and we also have a Dean of Student Officer, where her
job is to really taking care of all those issues. And also I think when we
created those student organizations; I think
they’re also resource for all the student. Really, you know, talk
through if there is an issue, but I think
all the student, like we have international
student association, we have international
student promoters, all those other
student organizations, they actually
advocate for this, so also kind of educate
student even if it happens what we have to do, so I
think it is very direct communication from the
university they can tell us what we need to do. And one of the great things
I think UNI has done in our mission and vision
of the university, like that’s the first thing
we hear about the university and they tell about how
diversity and inclusion that’s the top part
of the university. So just hearing and
listening to that, I think we feel comfortable. We haven’t seen anything
happening for discrimination from – and you know, Midwest
Iowa nice, Iowa kind, so I’m from Iowa, so I think
definitely that’s a plus. I think this is a
great environment. We haven’t really
seen anything. But if it happens
to somebody, I think that the Dean of
Student Office they’ll definitely take care of it. ALFRED BOLL: Okay, so the
main thing is not just having a policy, but
really communicating it – RUSSEL KARIM: – Exactly – ALFRED BOLL: – and
making it part of the university’s values. RUSSEL KARIM: Exactly. ALFRED BOLL: That is a
strong message that the universities pass. Okay, that’s very –
thank you very much. The next question is
about the teaching style. “What is the
teaching style like?” Ahoud, may I ask you
that, in Michigan? AHOUD AL MUQARSHI: Actually,
it depends on what class are you taking. First, telecommunication
information management was my class with CIS
programming classes, so the environment of class
we work in lab area where we just need to deal computers;
there is no desk box or we don’t use
notebook or something, but we use some programs
that can help us to make our programming look good,
and all that things. But in some other classes,
like a communication – regular communication
class, like communication leadership or other classes,
there is more like we use textbook and we use like a
lecture and workshop with the professor where we have
a discussion or conversation in a large group
in the class. We share our thought about
something and the book. But [INAUDIBLE] it’s more
with working individually with our projects, so it’s
kind of, I don’t know, different styles. This is what I
experienced here. ALFRED BOLL: Okay, thank
you very much, Ahoud. Let me ask you a follow-up
question from our viewers that just came in. “What kind of opportunities
are there to do research on campus?” You’re involved in
computers, of course, it could be research
on many things. Are there opportunities that
you could link to to do research that you’re
interested in? AHOUD AL MUQARSHI: Yeah,
actually, so – I’m sorry, I just – ALFRED BOLL:
No, that’s okay. It’s about research,
for example sometimes a professor in a
class will say, “Oh, could you help
me on a project? I’m doing research.” Do professors sometimes
take students to help and research projects? AHOUD AL MUQARSHI:
Yeah, actually, in some of the Communication
classes we had to do like it’s for extra credit,
but we have to hope the Communication Department will
[INAUDIBLE] some researches. Last semester, we had
research about how to make a robot to be in
a lecture room, and they choose specific
students to be in this research. It was so helpful also to
understand how robots work for us. And for international
students, it gives us more like – like the
campus or the professors really work hard to make the
education style comfortable for everyone, not
just for Americans. And, yeah, we’ve been
participating in some research as well, and when I
was an ESL student – English as a Second Language program
– I’ve been participating in some research where American
student who want to be an ESL teacher and they have
so many questions about international life and how
is the culture outside of the United States. They came in our classroom
every Monday and they give us some questions and, yeah,
so we kind of participating with some research. ALFRED BOLL: Thank you.
Thank you very much. That’s a very valuable
answer for our viewers. Now we have a question from
Quram Shazzad in Pakistan, who asks: “How is it for
Muslim students to live in the United States? For example, are there
Mosques and is halal food available?” Russel, let me ask you that. RUSSEL KARIM: So, yes,
thanks for the question. We do. We – I have – right now I
work as a program analyst, so there is actually a
Pakistani restaurant one minute away from my office, so
usually I go during my lunch. ALFRED BOLL: [LAUGHING]
That’s great. RUSSEL KARIM: So there’s
a lot of option for halal food there. And they actually pretty
much saved our life, you know, for a
lot of students. So we have pretty good
amount of Muslim student on campus, a lot of Middle
Eastern students and from Southeast Asia as well, so
there is halal food option at the restaurants and
there’s actually meat, so if they’re interested to
cook or living off campus, they can buy halal
meat as well. We actually have a
beautiful mosque – a masjid – close to campus. I think that’ll probably be
10-minute drive from the campus and a lot of students
they’re involved with the Muslim Student Association,
or in the community they actually drive together as
a group for Friday prayers, so a lot of student’s
they’ll actually go together. So there is
opportunity there. ALFRED BOLL: When you
travel, for example, I mean, do you face any issues –
would you say that you can pretty much find those
resources throughout the country – I mean,
where you’re going? RUSSEL KARIM: Yes. I think in the U.S., people
of all those south Asian cuisines are everywhere,
right – I love all this food – so I think now as I’ve
been traveling all over the country, I’ve been finding
restaurant and the options, you know, if you’re
practicing and trying to find halal food, I think you
can find halal food anywhere in the U.S. ALFRED BOLL: And you can
find mosques everywhere? RUSSEL KARIM: You can find a
mosque everywhere as well. Yeah. ALFRED BOLL: Thank you. I know that’s very
valuable for our viewers. Thank you. RUSSEL KARIM: So I think you
just have to look for it. You just have to find it. And if you Google it, I’m
pretty sure you’ll find the nearby mosque or the
halal food options. ALFRED BOLL:
Okay, thank you. Our next question is
from Alex in Brazil, who is asking: “Is it
possible for me to get into a graduate program after
I graduate here in Brazil in my country? Do I have to go through
some sort of undergraduate program in the U.S. first?” Elizabeth, can I turn to
you about that question? ELIZABETH SHAFFER: Sure. Yeah, so most often than
not we are able to validate undergraduate degrees
in other countries. And so there is not
typically undergraduate course requirements when
you’re admitted to a graduate program. Oftentimes you are required
to take a standardized test like the GRE examinations,
and obviously your proof of English proficiency. Also, you may receive some
conditional admissions that will state this
undergraduate class would really help prepare you and
supply you with the tools and software and things like
that that you need to know in the graduate program. So if you do find yourself
having to take an undergraduate class, don’t
be discouraged by that, it really is there to help
you and help you adjust to the campus. ALFRED BOLL: Thank
you very much. Let me stay with
you, Elizabeth, for a second question
from Jose Francisco, and Education
USA in Colombia. He asks: “How can students
be involved in a university sports team?” ELIZABETH SHAFFER:
That’s a common question. We often connect our
students that are really interested in say American
football or even soccer. We connect them
with the coaches, and they’re familiar with
getting to know them. We often encourage them to
either consider intramural sports or consider the
semi-competitive levels; there’s walk-on tryouts. So those opportunities are
available for students that are really dedicated to
their sport and don’t wanna lose that if they
move to a new country. ALFRED BOLL: Thank
you very much. Our next question is, again,
one focused on campuses. Online viewer Joyce want
to know a bit more about housing and living options. For example, do students
have to continue living on campus for the
whole four years? What kind of flexibility
do they have? Russel, can I
start with you? RUSSEL KARIM: I started
living on campus in a dorm for my first year. For an incoming student, I
would recommend at least one year they should
live on campus, because that helps them get
to know all the buildings – where it is – get to know
and make friends for the full four years. So I lived one
year on campus. Then I moved out to an
off-campus apartment. It’s called Merit
Student Apartment, but it’s not really
for merit students. [LAUGHTER] I lived there for
my last three years. So I think there’s
off-campus apartments you can live in, so you don’t
really have to tie in for four years. It’s just, if you are
interested to move out and live off-campus, I think you
should talk to Department of Residents ahead of time,
because in some universities I think they might have a
contract that if you’re gonna break it there
may be rules for that. But just to talk to the
university and see what the university
specific rules are. But for us, usually
year by year contract, so if you’re contracting
your dorm for a year, you just have to live for a
year and then you can move out and pursue other
options that you have. ALFRED BOLL: Thank you. Nasheba, you mentioned that
your last year you spent off-campus, that’s right? NASHEBA ALEXANDER: Yes. ALFRED BOLL: What was
the – what was your experience there? Did you just decide, I want
a different experience? NASHEBA ALEXANDER: Yes. At Howard, coming
in as a Freshman, it is required that you stay
on campus unless you have family members in the area
that you’re living with. But I would recommend,
as Russel said, that you come in
for the first time, you live on campus
for that first year, all the resources are there
for you and you get to have a better experience. And now you can move
off-campus anything after that, which is
entirely up to you. You contact Residence Life,
their Off-Campus Housing, or rent an apartment. But moving off-campus
was my choice. I wanted to just have
that independence, because sometimes when you
share your room with others, it depends on your plan and
where you’re coming from and what your requests are. ALFRED BOLL: Thank
you very much. Elizabeth, anything you
would like to add, finally, on this topic in terms of
universities’ policies on/off-campus? ELIZABETH SHAFFER: Yeah like
you said, it does vary. Most universities, or many
universities require that first year for those reasons
that everyone has kind of listed already. And I think we touched
on it a little bit, but the different
housing styles, so that’s important to
consider when you’re looking at options. And if you do want
more independence, there are a lot of
universities now that have apartment-style housing
where you’re having your own room, you’re having
those intimate spaces, so you aren’t necessarily
off-campus and away but you’re still getting the
independence you want. It really depends on the
options that you have available for living. But it’s generally really
good practice to try your first year, and
I think, Ahoud, you could probably
speak on that as well. AHOUD AL MUQARSHI: Yeah, I
highly recommend the student to start their scholarship
or like when they first come to the United States, it’s
good to live on campus to know more about what is
going on on the campus, and especially if they
cannot afford to get a car from the first year, it’s
good to get benefit of the campus transportation, and
it’s nice to get to know more friend and to
get know each other. Living on campus also
help me the first year to practice my English. I used to live with an
American roommate where I was the only one in all the
building who speak Arabic, so I couldn’t speak
my first language, and that’s really forced
me to speak English. So, yeah, it was so helpful
to get engaged to so many activities inside the dorm
and also inside the campus. So I highly recommend
students start with living on campus, make themselves
comfortable about the city, and the university,
then after that, if they want to go outside
the campus and live with their friends, with
other roommates, that’s good as well. ALFRED BOLL: Okay, thank you
very much, to all of you, very valuable advice. Our next question
is from Elton, who asks: “How do you handle
a situation where you have to study with people
that don’t have or share your customs?” Nasheba, let me
start with you. Did you study with lots of
different kinds of people? NASHEBA ALEXANDER: Yes. And at Howard, they
foster a culture where you work with groups
most of the time. You study independently but
there is always a group assignment that
you have to do. Now, working with someone
who don’t share your custom is not a bad thing
’cause you can learn from that person. So first, I think you should
address the person, “Okay, I’m not used to this, and
this is what I’m used to. What are you used to?” How can we learn
from each other? You might be surprise that
working with someone who doesn’t share your custom,
might give you an A as opposed to just pulling
yourself secretly and work by yourself. So I think that’s a great
opportunity to connect and learn something. You just share right away
and if it doesn’t work – if there is a complication
or something very serious that doesn’t allow
it to work out, then you can talk to your
professor or something like that. But first step is to address
the situation with the person you’re working with
or the people you’re working with and take it from there. ALFRED BOLL: It’s
very good advice. Karim, anything you
would like to add? RUSSEL KARIM: I think
I’ll second Nasheba, and [LAUGHTER] -I think the
only thing would be just the clear communication. It’s not a bad
thing, you know, the different culture and
the customs that they have. If you communicate with the
student what the customs you’re used to
and what they are, and just communicating with
them and I think with that in most of the
case it works out. ALFRED BOLL: Thank you. Thank you very much. Our next question is from
Doha, from Claire – sorry, Doha College, who asks:
“What is your advice to students preparing to study
in the United States? Elizabeth, can I
ask you that first? ELIZABETH SHAFFER: It’s
a very large question preparing to
study in the U.S. But doing your research
is the best advantage; watching interactives
like this, and looking at the different
opportunities and schools that you’re interested
in, is the first step. You’ll get a very good
sense of the university by visiting their websites and
seeing how accessible they are, the communication via
e-mail or what communication tools they have available. We’ve got some global
interns, like Ahoud, who answer phone calls,
answer questions well in advance to
you even arriving. So those tools are really
important when you’re considering
studying in the U.S. and the admission process. RUSSEL KARIM: That’s
very good advice. And it is a large question. I assume also from our end,
certainly using Education USA’s services is something
we want to recommend, because they’re free,
they’re worldwide, and they are targeted
at the best fit for the students, right? So what we want is for
students to find the right place to study so that they
can succeed personally and professionally,
certainly academically, and our advisors are
all focused on that. And I hope that all of your
universities – I know that all of the universities
here certainly work with Education USA in terms
of promoting U.S. higher education generally. Ahoud, can I ask you, is
there any one thing or a few things that you did that
helped you prepare for arriving in the
United States? AHOUD AL MUQARSHI:
Well, yeah. I did so many research
before I came to Michigan specifically, ’cause I
used to be in a different university when I
transferred to Western. When I first decided to
study abroad, I go online, I searched about everything
about the United States, even some things you
will never think about. I searched exactly for every
single thing, like life, American culture. I saw so many videos. I even – so many episodes
and some stuff on TV to just see how is the life look
like in the United States. And those kind of shows and
those picture and videos helped me to prepare myself,
especially when I came in the winter, I searched so
many pictures about how the weather in
Michigan in winter, and it makes me feel
like nervous and good at the same time. Like, I will see snow for
the first time in my life, but it will be so cold. [LAUGHTER] I was good with searching
about the universities, the majors, ’cause when
after graduating from high school I found myself I love
working with computers, networking and
communication [INAUDIBLE], so I started searching what
is the best universities for those majors, and yeah,
so I did so many research. I also communicate with
some current student in the United States – there is so
many Omanis around here. I contact with them and see
what should I have before I came and what to bring
with me from home, and all these things. They were so helpful and
they really encouraged me to stay positive. They told me I will face
so many problems in the airports; it’s normal;
it’s not a problem; this is the process. So they really helped me to
feel good about starting a new experience and, yeah – ALFRED BOLL: That’s
great advice. It’s a great story and it’s
great advice for people who are thinking about coming. Thank you very much. Our next question is from
Education USA Colombia. “What do universities do to
help international students adapt to U.S. culture?” I know that, of course,
you’ve already spoken about the seminars at
the beginning, but are there other things
that in your experience helped you adapt at
the university, Karim? Sorry, Russel? RUSSEL KARIM: Yeah,
I think we have International
Student Office. They also offer a program
called international – like the family,
your host family. The host family
program, what they do, when those new
students come in, they will assign a student
with a host family to really understand the culture and
go get dinner with your host family, understand what
family looks like in the U.S. And, also, for me, when I
came into University of Northern Iowa, this is
my first time in the U.S., that was my first time in
Midwest and learning all the cultures, getting
used to with everything, and having a host family
that you can always call in any situation that, “Oh,
I don’t know how to do this,” and understanding that. So I think university – UNI
has done a really good job assigning us a host family. Also, they assign host
family based on interest. If some of the host family
they have interest on Bangladesh or Southeast Asia
that they have visited, they have very keen
interest in this culture; they would assign us those
kind of host families. So they really helped us –
university also, I mean, I think we also talked
about the orientation. The first week of the
orientation they kind of lay out all the resources that
are available on campus from the health center to
[INAUDIBLE] even counseling center, like a mental
health – you know, you’re like homesick and all
those assistance you would need, so I think university
in the U.S., they usually do a really good job explaining
your resources that you have on campus. ALFRED BOLL: Thank
you very much. Very valuable advice
and good perspective. Our next question is
from Grace in Kinshasa, who is asking about
health insurance. Grace asks: “Did you have
to have health insurance as a student in the United
States and how do you get that insurance?” Elizabeth, can I ask
you that question? ELIZABETH SHAFFER: Health
insurance in the United States is a big topic and it is
important and required for all international students
to have health insurance. Universities handle
this differently, and for Western, we have a
health insurance coordinator in our office that meets
with students and we have selective plans that they
can choose from that meet all of their requirements. We also follow up with
students that don’t currently have insurance. And our coordinator is even
kind enough to fight some of those battles about
insurance claims; she’ll call up the insurance
companies on behalf of the student in certain
scenarios to help with bills and things like that. So it is a
complicated process, but it is something where
the staff here are able to help you navigate that. We also have, you know,
resources on campus about the health centers and the
information and availability to make appointments there
at a better rate that is covered with your insurance. Some universities
automatically enroll them in a standard plan, unless
you produce otherwise, so keep that in mind as
well when you’re looking towards that. ALFRED BOLL: Thank you
very much, Elizabeth. And, Nasheba, would you
like to add something from your experience? Was that how it
worked for you? NASHEBA ALEXANDER:
Health insurance at Howard University
is very easy. Once you’re enrolled
and you’re registered for that semester or that
academic year, you’re automatically enrolled
in an insurance plan. And you have to do your flu
shots and health screening every year. Once you go to
that health center, they make sure your
plan is active, and that lasts throughout
the entire year, and then it starts to
refresh again for the following year. I literally don’t have to do
anything but make sure that I’m active and that I can
get my service when I go to the hospital. ALFRED BOLL:
Excellent, thank you. Thank you. So a few of our viewers are
asking about budgeting and spending money. They ask: “How did you
approach that during your time as a student, and
can you work on campus?” Ahoud, can I ask you that? How have you approached
planning spending? AHOUD AL MUQARSHI: Okay. I’m not really
good with spending. [LAUGHTER] I mean, I’m good
with spending but – [LAUGHTER] – there is so many
opportunities to work on campus and I really
recommend to students if you can work on the campus, just
go for it ’cause it will give you a good experience,
not just the money, but it will give
you work experience. You can just put it in your
CV and résumé and it will really help you. Some people also can work
outside depending on their visa, but F-1 student visa
we’re not allowed to work outside the campus, so there
is so much opportunity for us to work inside the campus
or to get internship paid or non-paid internship. As I said, it’s important
to manage the money, especially if you’re
depending on yourself for getting your money, it’s
so important every month to have a plan for
you, like, okay, this is how I should
spend money on food, this is how much I should
spend on electricity and all that thing, especially in
the winter when the heater is so expensive. [LAUGHTER] You want to save
good money for that. So yeah, it depends on every
person how much they spend for their stuff they
have to get, for bills, and if they can find a
job in the United States, that would be great –
that will support them financially and it will give
them a good experience. ALFRED BOLL: Okay.
Thank you very much. Russel, let me ask you
because you now you’re actually working on
campus after graduating. Did you work while
you were studying? RUSSEL KARIM: Yes. So I think working on
campus, as Ahoud mentioned, it’s not just you work for
money but the experience you get, the real life
experience working on campus, working on a job,
the skills you learn I think that is like huge value. So I actually had multiple
jobs at the same time on campus. I was working as
an IT technician, I worked as IT technician
for the university for three and a half years
during my college. I also worked at the
Gallagher Blue Dorm for the performance arts center. So you get to work in
different things and learn different things, and I
think one thing for my professional success after
college was the experience I have received
throughout my college. Like, you know, I worked as
an IT technician for three and half years, that helped
me to secure a job after I graduated on campus as
a programmer analyst for the university. Even throughout my
university life, those kind of experiences
helped me to get valuable internship. I did two internship in two
really amazing companies, so it is really helpful
– helped me in my professional career. ALFRED BOLL: Fantastic. Nasheba, I think you want
to add that you had an experience working? NASHEBA WILLIAMS: Yes. I think if you can
work on campus, especially in
that first year, do it because I’ve worked
as a Resident Assistant, so that meant my
housing was covered, and I didn’t have to
worry about housing. I also worked in the Office
of Career Services as an intern, so when recruiters
started coming in, I get to meet them, so right
there you’re networking, you’re building. So I think you can work,
but be mindful of your visa status and most of us as
international students are not eligible for FAFSA, so
if you are considering to work, contact Student
Employment early, you know, can you apply
for [INAUDIBLE], do that early because it
goes by really quick. Don’t wait until you get to
campus to start looking for on-campus jobs. Do it before. Put your name in and
even if you don’t get it, go to an office or something
that you want to work in and volunteer. That’s how I got my job with
the Office of Career Services, because you need that
experience here. ALFRED BOLL: So volunteering
is also a fantastic opportunity; be very
careful about the rules, budget carefully –
very strong messages from all of you. Thank you. We have a specific
question about – for you, in Michigan, Ahoud, which
is: “How did you cope with the cold weather
in Michigan?” [LAUGHTER] AHOUD AL MUQARSHI: So I came
to Michigan in the worst winter ever – 2014. [LAUGHTER] So, yeah, when I first came,
it was storm the first week of January; the
class was cancelled; the orientation was
cancelled as well, and I called my mother, I
called my family – I was so scared that I’m in
the wrong place. [LAUGHTER] So, yeah, I was
crying – it was cold, ’cause I came from very dry,
hot weather to a very cold, snowing, and the snow was
more than three inches, and I can’t walk outside. But by the time I get used
to it and I feel like it just about time and it’s
good to prepare yourself. Like, when I asked student
how is the weather in Michigan, they told
me it’s snowing, but I saw the picture
– “Oh,” I said, “It will not be that snow. I will just have my jacket
with me and that’s it. I will be fine.” But I wasn’t fine, actually. So I recommend new student
who are coming anywhere in Michigan for the
spring, please. If you don’t have boots
or gloves or jackets, prepare yourself to buy from
here – there are so many stores you can get
from here, but, yeah, so you have to know the
winter is kind of hard here, but by the time
it’s – Michigan have a very nice environment. Like, you can see
different seasons. I can tell this is
winter; this is summer, so I love getting
experience with the four different seasons. So as I said, it’s just
about time when you get yourself ready for it –
prepare yourself well, get the cold shock
as soon as you can, and you will be fine, and
it’s just about time. ALFRED BOLL: That’s
a great message. The seasons can be
beautiful things. All parts of the country are
very different and beautiful in their own way. Thank you, that’s
a lovely answer. So we have a question from
[INAUDIBLE], from Cairo, who wants to know: “How
do U.S. universities ensure the safety of
students on campus?” Elizabeth, could
we start with you? ELIZABETH SHAFFER: Yeah,
and I’ll even feed into the winter concerns. On campus, they take that
very seriously – the weather conditions – and so there
are different modes of transportation, public
safety and grounds keeping are keeping the campus safe,
getting rid of any ice. Our campus is also a little
bit designed with winters in mind, so a lot of the
buildings do connect, which means very
limited time outside. Further, and to
go full detail, there is a fully-staffed
public safety that also operates in the
Kalamazoo area, and most universities
have a campus safety; most universities have those
blue light call boxes that you can contact if you have
a concern and during our orientation we have a police
officer come in and even tell students, like, no
question or no concern is too small for
those blue lights. Don’t be afraid to use them. And they also have a
lot of universities have afterhours, if you
don’t wanna walk alone; you’re able to contact
services to walk with you from building to building,
or to your home. So it’s very accessible. They encourage you from day
one to get those alerts from Campus Safety
and weather updates, and things of that nature,
so you’re very well connected and
comfortable on campus. ALFRED BOLL:
That’s fantastic. I know that safety and
security are certainly one of the things that U.S.
universities think about most and absolutely
prioritize. Bashar, from Pakistan, is
asking about “leadership programs or internships
available on campus.” Nasheba, I know you
participated in several internships. Can you tell us a little
bit about your experience? NASHEBA WILLIAMS:
My internship was great. My experience was great. I think, first, you should start
with what exactly you want to achieve from that
internship and what are you going to do after that? So get involved in
internships that really build you a step
further in your career. So I had a lot
of internships. I had internships – most
of them were in clinical settings, like hospital,
Kennedy Krieger, Bridgepoint also
did community. And a part of one internship
was a research one, so you actually
conduct research. I know I’m into the
clinical field on research, so that really helped me. But in terms of internship,
networking; network, network, network;
share your interests; share what you wanna do with
your professors and your advisors, and they will
plug into that right spot, so to say, so you get and
maximize that internship. ALFRED BOLL:
That’s fantastic. Thank you very much. We have Maimona,
in Peshawar, who is asking: “What kinds
of platforms are there for getting information
and guidance on U.S. higher education?” And, of course, Education
USA is one of them. Did you all have contact
with schools directly or how else did you
approach that, Russel? RUSSEL KARIM: So I actually
directly contacted Education USA. Actually, I had amazing
experience with the American Center in Bangladesh. So they actually
have a counselor. There, you can actually make
appointments – schedule appointment with them
– meet with them. Plus, the resources that
they have available at the American Center – they had
all those education fairs, so the other countries – the
university from the U.S., they’ll come in and
present their university, so you get also directly
connect with those universities as well. So I actually – that’s how
exactly I came into the U.S.; I met an amazing
counselor from northern Iowa who happened to visit in
Bangladesh and met her there and contacted them. But I think a lot of
prospective students, they can try
multiple university. Before I came in, I applied
six university in the U.S., so I was actually
continuously communicating with them, looking into
my options in terms of scholarship, in
terms of environment. I chose to go to northern
Iowa because of the Midwest and the environment,
and the Iowans are nice. So I think there’s a lot
of opportunities in the American Center. I totally encourage them
to work directly with the American Center in different
countries that prospective students are. ALFRED BOLL:
Thank you so much. I appreciate that
perspective, and it sounds like you
really did your research and that you knew how to go
about looking for the right place. So, unfortunately, we
are almost out of time. I would like to ask each
one of you to share a final thought for our viewers. Elizabeth, could
we start with you? ELIZABETH SHAFFER:
Well, first of all, it’s been a pleasure to
participate in this and one of my final thoughts is just
emphasizing the engagement and maximizing your
opportunity once you do arrive on campus here. Don’t be afraid to reach
out to friends from your country,
American students, the campus resources that
you have available – you’re gonna make memories for
a lifetime from your professional, academic
and personal life. So it’s a lot to look
to forward to and a lot to research. ALFRED BOLL: Thank
you, Elizabeth, that’s exactly right. Ahoud, can I ask you? AHOUD AL MUQARSHI: Yeah. Thank you for having
us here today. And for the new
international students who are excited to come to
the United States or to participate in the
study abroad programs, don’t feel afraid
to come and try it. It’s so interesting to
learn new things about new culture. And American culture it’s so
– there’s so much thing to learn about. And even if you came here
and you get engaged to the American culture, just don’t
lose your own culture; just try to combine between
them or stay with both culture, respect
other cultures, also make you like
in a good situation, and people here love talking
about the other culture; they love asking where
do you came from, like, what is the life
is like there, so be prepared to answer
all those questions. And it’s so interesting to
get out of your comfortable zone, try something new,
learn a new language – it’s very good for you. ALFRED BOLL: That’s
very good advice. Thank you very much, Ahoud. Nasheba? NASHEBA WILLIAMS: Thank
you for this opportunity. And I would say to everybody
in Grenada, please research, contact me if you can. This is a great opportunity. If you’re interested, you
know, come to the U.S. and study or anywhere else,
just for the experience on higher education. And one thing I wanna add
is that keep your uniqueness because it adds to the
diversity wherever you go. So keep that and
just keep pushing. ALFRED BOLL: So you’ve
brought a little bit of Grenada with you
wherever you go? NASHEBA WILLIAMS: Oh, yes. A little bit of
spice wherever I go. [LAUGHTER] ALFRED BOLL: Excellent. Beautiful, beautiful
Caribbean representative. That’s fantastic. That enriches us. NASHEBA WILLIAMS:
Yes, thank you. ALFRED BOLL:
Thank you so much. That’s a great perspective. Russel? RUSSEL KARIM:
I think for me, you know education
in the U.S. – American education
absolutely paved my personal and professional life
after graduation. I think there is so much
opportunities for students or international students,
prospective students in the U.S. that sets this kind
of education are different from any other country. So if anybody have
the opportunity, I absolutely recommend them
to pursue education in the U.S., and I think American
Center is definitely the best place to reach
out and work with them. Thanks for having us today. We really appreciate it. ALFRED BOLL: Well, thank
you for that promotion of Education USA. We appreciate it and
appreciate your perspective. Thank you all. Thank you for
joining us today. And, of course, a special
thanks to our guests Elizabeth, Ahoud,
Nasheba and Russel. A very special thanks to our
viewing groups joining us around the world, and
especially those at Education USA Uganda, the American
Corner in Pristina, Kosovo, Education USA Qatar,
Education USA Colombia, Education USA Kinshasa in the Democratic
Republic of Congo, the Colonel John C.
Robinson American Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the American Corner
in Gitega, Burundi, Education USA Nicaragua,
the BNC Centro Cultural Nicaragüense Norteamericano
in Nicaragua. You can find more
information about studying in the United States by
visiting the Education USA website at
www.educationusa.state.gov, there you can find
information on the five steps to U.S. study, locate
an Education USA center in your country; one of 436 around
the world currently, connect with us
via social media; learn about both in-person
and virtual upcoming events; research financial
aid opportunities, and much more. Thank you and please join
us for future Education USA interactive web chats. Goodbye from Washington.