First Impressions from Global UGRAD Spring 2023 Students

Global UGRAD students arriving to Kent State University
Global UGRAD students arriving at Kent State University

Global UGRAD students are settling into the Spring 2023 semester at various host colleges and universities across the country. We reached out to students to learn about their first impressions of campus life, courses, and U.S culture. For many, this is their first time in the United States, or even outside of their home countries. We’re sharing some of the things that have stood out to them and what they are looking forward to in the coming months.


Ketlande Desilien in the snow on campus
Ketlande Desilien in the snow on campus

“My name is Ketlande and I am currently enrolled in Missouri State University in Springfield, for the Spring 2023 semester. Since my arrival, I have been surrounded by many gentle people who are always willing to help, and other UGRADs with whom I spend a lot of time getting to know each other and learn their cultures. I am having a good time so far! When I first visited the campus, what impressed me the most was the buildings – they are so big and nice. They have everything to make you comfortable. Many of the buildings on campus have places and rooms to relax and/or study in order to succeed in your classes. Furthermore, there are a lot of activities on campus for international students at the university. I and other UGRADs have already visited many places in downtown Springfield and we have had a lot of fun. This is just the beginning of a great adventure!”

– Ketlande Desilien, Haiti, Missouri State University


Katsiaryna Taranka (right) jumping for joy on campus!

“I am Katya from Belarus. My journey to the United States was long and exhausting. But now I am here, and I am going to make the best of this experience! My host university is Kansas State University. My first impression is that it is a huge campus with a Harry Potter vibe, in a nice small town built around the university. In the library there is even a so-called Harry Potter room! The people in Kansas are friendly, open, and welcoming. Everyone I met was sincerely interested to hear my story and learn about my background. At our international student orientation, I met many people from all over the world and I am sure we will become good friends! Overall, the UGRAD program is a great opportunity to learn not only about American culture, but also about the culture of other nations and of course, to share my Belarusian culture. The only disadvantage here so far is the food, I just need to adapt to the American cuisine. At the same time, there are many cafes where I can try different cuisines, such as Mexican, Chinese, Thai, etc. I am sure that every day will be full of wonderful events and activities and my next four months will be unforgettable!”

– Katsiaryna Taranka, Belarus, Kansas State University


Arayan Khare on campus
Arayan Khare at North Central College

“America has its way of reminding you who you are.” My name is Arayan Khare, hailing from India, and I am studying at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. So far, I am having a wonderful time here. The people of the U.S. are warm and welcoming. I didn’t have any problem settling into the campus and environment, as people were kind and supportive. The North Central College Campus is spread across the Historic District of Naperville and it is magnificent and the environment is conducive to the holistic growth and development of students. It is just 30 minutes away from downtown Chicago. I specifically love to spend time in the beautiful Oesterle Library on campus. I also attended the Art Institute of Chicago trip organized by the College to see the African Art Exhibition recently. I have made friends from around the world. I also met fellow UGRADs from Tajikistan, Dominican Republic, and Belarus. I look forward to exploring Chicago and understanding the American business legal regime as I have taken Business Law and Ethics as a course at NCC. The United States is offering me life-enriching experiences that will not only help me in my process of self-discovery, but also will be with me as cherished and lifelong memories.”

– Arayan Khare, India, North Central College

Brandon Banda on campus
Brandon Banda on the LaGrange College campus



“Hello, my name is Brandon Banda Masankha from Malawi, and I am studying at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. My first impression is that I was surprised about how people are so friendly here. I did not expect people in this new environment to be so friendly. I was also impressed with the sleep patterns of people and the time which people get dinner here on campus, which is completely different from what I was used to doing back home.”

– Brandon Banda Masankha, Malawi, LaGrange College



Holman Castro representing Nicaragua on campus
Holman Castro representing Nicaragua on campus

“Hello everyone! My name is Holman from Nicaragua. I was placed at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg. The experience has been incredible and awesome so far! I haven’t yet discovered everything in America, but that’s the goal. I came to the US on January 1st and every day has gone by so fast ever since. Literally, I’ve been doing so many things! The first day of class was a bit challenging as the educational system is way different than my country’s. Some of you might relate to this, I guess. I also want to highlight that I’ve had a blast with other international and domestic students. They’ve been so nice and friendly! I absolutely love it here. We’ve been to different places downtown and in the main city, which is Kansas City. I got to try bowling and watch an ice hockey match last week and it was awesome! Both activities were phenomenal since it was the first time that I was actually seeing an ice hockey match.”

– Holman Castro, Nicaragua, the University of Central Missouri


Jose Bernardo on campus
Jose Bernardo on campus

“My name is Jose Bernardo from Mozambique, studying at Utah Tech University in St. George, Utah. My favorite thing here on campus is the Science Engineering Technology Building. Most of my lectures are in this building. It is my first time taking a lab class. My classmates and professor are so friendly in the Lab of Electrical Engineering class. The first time I started to work with the microcontroller, I faced difficulties in the first lab because it was a new experience, but I quickly received help and support. The community on campus is amazing and faculty are friendly and helpful. Until now, the surprise I noticed in my campus is the largest lab and with all the equipment. The green environment here on campus is also new to me and it is big! Without a map you may lose the way!  My host university so far, is amazing! I am so excited for this experience as a Global UGRAD and to soon be another of the UGRAD TRAILBLAZERS!”

– Jose Bernardo, Mozambique, Utah Tech University


Jihyang and other Kent State University international students
Jihyang and other Kent State University international students

“My name is Jihyang from South Korea, and I am attending Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. On campus, I have met many friends from various counties. Also, I really fell in love with the campus because it is very huge and has magnificent landscapes and cute squirrels. The third day of my arrival was a snowy day, making the weather colder. However, it gives me unforgettable memories in the United States. Now, I am strongly feeling a sense of belonging to this school!”

– Jihyang Kim, South Korea, Kent State University 


Nargiza Nu'monjonova on campus
Nargiza Nu’monjonova on campus

“My name is Nargiza and I am from Uzbekistan. I am studying at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in Wilmington, North Carolina. I can surely say that I am happy to be surrounded by a helpful and supportive community here in Wilmington. One of my favorite things about my host university is its nature! Trees are everywhere and you can see squirrels and ducks from time to time. There is the Bluethenthal Wildflower Preserve at the center of the campus which I am excited to visit. I also enjoyed watching the university basketball game and was pleasantly surprised by how students and local community love this game. Another surprising thing was probably the changing weather of Wilmington, which can get very warm or very cold sometimes. Overall, I have had the best first impression as an international student here at UNCW!”

– Nargiza Nu’monjonova, Uzbekistan, University of North Carolina Wilmington 


The semester is just getting started, and there will be so much more for the Spring 2023 cohort to experience while here in the United States. Be on the lookout for more about the current Global UGRADs’ experiences as they continue to learn, grow, and live in their new environments.