Journey to the United States

The Journey Begins

“When ‘Life is full of surprises’ meets with a ‘Dream comes true’ moment, things simply can’t get any better. Being able to participate in the Global UGRAD Program has been an experience of a lifetime! In Bangladesh, as soon as I completed my semester final exams, I was psyched and excited to prepare myself to board my flight to head to my destination of Bloomington-Normal. Although it was a bit emotional for my parents that I would be traveling alone for the first time internationally, they also knew that I’m going to be a part of something which will make me a global citizen in fostering the development of my society and nation.” – John Mark Madhu, Bangladesh, Illinois State University

At the airport

“I had a nice farewell with friends and family and dozed off on a nearly 24-hour trip that brought me to my new home. I had no expectations for myself or for my future surroundings, so my interaction with this pretty much uncanny environment was ‘wow’. That ‘wow’ was something I said throughout my landing in Chicago, during my layover in Chicago, my landing in Salt Lake City, my arrival at the university, and a few times in a week now when I encounter something new and interesting.” – Stefan Petrovski, Macedonia, University of Utah

“Personally, I got really confused on the last week before departure because I only found the ticket a few days before traveling since it had been sent the day after we had an election. As Kenyans we were busy watching the presidential results trickle in… I’m super grateful I packed my Maasai Shuka and my African attire. They are going to come in handy as I contest Home Coming King next week. I’ll be the only one with an African theme.” – Kelvin Getuno, Kenya, Northern Michigan University

“When I found out that I was coming to the U.S. I got really excited, I went to tell my mom, ‘mom I have to buy pajamas,’ and she asked me why. So I told her, this is an experience in a U.S. university so I will have a roommate and I want her to see me with my new pajamas. She started laughing, but basically that was the first thing I did.”- Andrea Matamoros, Honduras, Mississippi College

“I traveled across three continents with a brain that was ready to process everything with no previous judgment or stereotypes. The idea of experiencing culture-shock was the most terrifying to me. Therefore, I decided to get rid of my assumptions, and above all say ‘YES’ to new experiences.” – Ikbale Bouziane, Morocco, University of Maine

Budoor’s super cool light up shoes

“When I was preparing my bag, I asked myself what is the thing that I can’t live without and the answer was everything! Of course I had to spend nights deciding what to take and what to leave and I’m so glad I brought my lightning shoes with me, I got so many compliments for my shoes and yes, you guessed right, I’m the girl in the Facebook group photo at the World Learning Office that had green light up shoes 🙂 ” –Budoor Snober, Jordan, American University





Taking Flight

Ikbale’s view from the plane, swirling rows of houses and the shadow of the plane

“The order in which was natural to me vanished since the moment I took a seat on the connecting flight heading to Paris. Being able to shift from one setting to a wholly different one made me realize that everything is subjective.” – Ikbale Bouziane, Morocco, University of Maine

“I have always been afraid of heights and therefore I was freaking out how I would survive a 14-hour flight from Georgia to Germany and the U.S. Surprisingly for me, as I stepped onto the plane, I felt my fears fall apart and I enjoyed the beautiful views from the window. I loved the feeling of being so far from the earth, but the most fascinating part was traveling alone for the first time. Challenge yourself! The feeling of great happiness, independence, and excitement is waiting for you! Can you imagine? I accidentally met my friend and fellow Global UGRAD participant Daniela at the airport and we spent all the time from Denver to Fort Collins sharing our cultures and expectations for the U.S. It was one of the most amazing life surprises, the beginning of U.S. journey was so extraordinary and interesting.” – Mariam Chorgolashvili, Georgia, Colorado State University

“My best flight was from Amsterdam to Detroit, with all the sun and the expanse of the Netherlands to see, I could not sleep until I was over the Atlantic. I took little snippets of the take off and the landing, the little water puddles across the Netherlands looked amazing from the sky, best of all when we arrived at Detroit, the excitement was palpable, looking down at the estates and fields across Detroit was more than breathtaking, my American dream was playing out right in front of my eyes.” – Kelvin Getuno, Kenya, Northern Michigan University


Reaching “Here”!

“A special voice in my head constantly reminds me that I am an exchange student. I am my country’s ambassador, and I am currently representing it. The first shocking experience I had was in the airport when the security man looked at my Duty-free bag and said, ‘Bahrain’. I thought I misheard him, and so I asked him to repeat what he said. He actually knew my country! My tiny country – it’s 177 times smaller than Alabama – is actually recognized by people here! This was very surprising to me and it made me want to share more about it. The best part, to me, is having the freedom to film on campus without the requirement of any paperwork. We don’t have this privilege back home. I am enjoying how I can make friends using my camera, and I’m working on a video to share my experience and view of this beautiful campus.” – Komail Sabaa, Bahrain, University of Alabama

Stefan Petrovski holding his new University of Utah ID card

“My Global UGRAD family is my American family at this moment. We’ve come from all parts of the world to a place that we never imagined we’d build a home and family in (I’m not talking about a family with a house in the suburbs and a porch from which you watch your grandkids play in the yard). The family we’ve made is more than that. We built a bond in the 4 weeks that we’ve been together that will outlast this place, we built a family that we will take back home, a home that knows no distance… The U is a campus of endless possibilities and a melting pot for intercultural diversity. Like many of its famous mottos, I’d like to mention ‘Imagine U’ because I have imagined myself, the U, and the city as part of me. Thank you for making me… me.” – Stefan Petrovski,  Macedonia, University of Utah

“When I finally got to Jackson, it was 10 pm and I got my bags and noticed that the airport was empty, so I was scared that the people from the university forgot about me, but suddenly a man comes to me and says HOLA, and I see his t-shirt and was a Mississippi College t-shirt, and I felt really comfortable because this person was talking my language and was part of the college I was going to.” – Andrea Matamoros, Honduras, Mississippi College

John Mark presenting to students at Grace Christian School

“I always like to be socially engaged, and starting my education at Illinois State University has truly made feel where I always wanted to be… The welcoming attitude of the people is truly inexplicable and there are mentors and counselors to always provide me with any assistance I need. I have been able to share my experience about my culture and country to a nursing student for one of his courses, it feels great when someone wants to know about your culture. Besides, I have truly enjoyed sharing my experience, culture, religion and national ethnicity to a school named Grace Christian School in Pontiac, Illinois… I truly admire the kind, accepting, and inspiring culture of United States which adores everyone with love and boldness. I will go back to my country and reach out to everyone with the respect, hospitality and love that I’ve received from the States. Being able to participate in Global UGRAD has opened the doors for me to foster a global movement. ” – John Mark Madhu, Bangladesh, Illinois State University

Kelvin with friends in his Maasai attire

“Interactions between students and teachers is the best experience I have had so far, the freedom to express thought, at least to my professors. I hear some don’t like to be differed with, but I haven’t met those. I like my Political science one most… I have to admit, I didn’t in my wildest dreams dream of ever being here at this time of the year and in a state I love with amazing people… Thank you World Learning and the USA for affording me this chance, thank you for making this dream come through, thank you for making the first born of my mother hit the high seas faster than she had imagined he would.” – Kelvin Getuno, Kenya, Northern Michigan University

Mariam on a hike with her UGRAD Post and the Georgian flag

“I am so grateful that CSU (Colorado State University) had the temporary housing option with local families and I took it. Jeff and Whitney introduced me to the U.S. I always dreamt of, individualistic and independent. I enjoyed every moment spent in their beautiful family. We had a Georgian cooking night, sharing our cultures, and we played a board game. I lost, but the time we spent together is unforgettable. I was in shock when during walking, I saw squirrels and bunnies; it is such a miracle for me to walk to my class and encounter a lovely squirrel all the time.” – Mariam Chorgolashvili, Georgia, Colorado State University

“Back in Morocco, it was easy for me to talk to people and make a bunch of new friends everywhere I go. However, during my first days on campus, I just could not do so because the American how-to-make-friends recipe totally differs from the Moroccan one. So, I decided to ask more people about it and try to do it the American way. ‘We have to speak the culture’ Tracy Novinger wrote in one of her articles on how culture affects communication. I could not agree more with her, because learning to speak the culture and immerse oneself in it was one of the methods that allowed me to make a diversified group of friends in a limited amount of time.” – Ikbale Bouziane, Morocco, University of Maine

Daniela with the Colorado State University flag and friends

“Colorado State University is a wonderful university, with the most beautiful campus I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Everywhere you look, you see green, nature and the mountains. I have only been here for three weeks and I have had a very easy time finding a community of people like me while also encountering others from a diverse variety of places and backgrounds. I’ve met wonderful friends. I love being here because there’s always something cool and fun to do, Colorado has many outdoorsy opportunities to offer. For example, for Labor Day, I went hiking to the Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the most popular parks in the country. That place is breathtaking, I loved it. All I’ve experienced in these couple of weeks makes me feel so lucky, so very blessed.” – Daniela Espinal Fondeur, Dominican Republic, Colorado State University

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