Aya’s Story: A Muslim Woman Breaks Stereotypes at a Southern Church

by Guest Post - Posts (71). Posted Thursday, March 7th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Aya Chebbi is at Georgia Southern University as part of the Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program. She’s been taking the opportunity to teach students and local groups about her country, Tunisia, her religion, Islam, and all about her heritage and culture. Recently she spoke with one group that had a particular impact on how she sees the U.S., and her hopes for her future. Here’s her story:

One of the main reasons I applied for the Fulbright Scholarship FLTA “Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program” was the chance to be an ambassador not only of my country but of my whole region. I hold the complex identity of being a Tunisian African Muslim Arab woman, and I wanted to use that to break a lot of stereotypes and represent Tunisia’s revolution, the African unity, the Arab culture and the true Islam.

I was hoping to be sent to one of my dream universities, Johns Hopkins or Georgetown University, because Washington D.C. is the state most alive with politics, but also full of false assumptions about the MENA region. When the program sent me instead to the very southern state of Georgia, and the very rural area of Statesboro, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to accomplish my mission with people whose accent, lifestyle and orientations I don’t fully understand.

Reading about American history, I expected the south to be very conservative and very Republican, and I doubted I would find opportunities to open constructive debates However, at Georgia Southern University, where I am teaching Arabic and taking some graduate courses (and which I now proudly call “my university”) I found the Global Ambassadors Program. Through that program I get to represent my country, region and culture by speaking to groups both on and off campus.

I have become very delighted whenever I get a speaking invitation, and last semester I got to speak in some of the Global Citizen classes on campus, as well as at high schools around Statesboro. This semester, the experience has already been even more intense and interesting.

Last week, I was invited to speak at the Statesboro First United Methodist Church. I was very surprised that a Muslim would be asked to speak in a church in a very conservative area like Statesboro. Though last year I spoke at the National Cathedral School when I visited the states for the first time as MENA Democracy fellow, that was on the grounds of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., where my expectations were more of an open community to other religions and cultures.

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My Love Affair with Anthropology

by Sunny Peng - Posts (5). Posted Tuesday, March 5th, 2013 at 12:52 pm

Brooks Hall- the anthropology department at UVA

Brooks Hall- the anthropology department at UVA

After I was admitted as a transfer student by University of Virginia, I went to a send-off party hosted in Beijing by its alumni and the Office of Engagement for incoming undergraduate and graduate students, in order to learn more about my new school.

I was a finance major at my school in China, and did not see any reason to change my career path after changing my school. Especially not after attending the send-off party. It was held in one of the four most expensive clubs in Beijing and I kept hearing from all the alums and students there how “UVA’s Comm School [the McIntire School of Commerce] is the second best, if not the best, in the U.S.”

I would barely even have known that UVA has a liberal arts curriculum, which American universities in general are famous for, during that first encounter.

It was to get a social science requirement out of the way that I signed up for an anthropology class, Anthropology of Globalization, in my first semester at UVA. I did not have any clue what “anthropology” meant, but the word “globalization” attracted me.

The teacher was a graduate student who wore round frame glasses and worn-out jackets that seemed to be from several decades ago. His appearance gave me my first clue as to what an anthropologist might be like—people within this discipline seem to live in the past.

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Take a Tour of our Favorite Campus Study Spaces

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Monday, March 4th, 2013 at 8:01 am

Whether we like it or not, the activity that takes up most of our time – more time than even sleeping – is studying. So it’s important to find a great place to do it, and all of us have found those unique study spaces that have become like our second homes.

Come with us on a tour of the places where we spend most of our time on campus. Which would you choose?

Abuzar – The graduate library
Ginn Library

The Edwin Ginn Library at Tufts’ Fletcher School of International Affairs is adjacent to my dorm hall, which makes it very convenient, especially in the winter. This is not the main university library – it’s for the graduate school.

I go to the graduate library instead of the main library because the environment is a lot quieter and the students who study there are more serious. I usually spend most of my weekday nights in this library perusing my books, doing homework and sometimes (meaning usually) procrastinating with Facebook, YouTube videos, and TV shows.

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6 Free Online Events for International Students: March 3-9

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Friday, March 1st, 2013 at 6:01 pm

The big event coming up this week is the Hobsons virtual fair for Asia, but there are also some webinars for business school and law school applicants.  

As always, if you attend any of these events, report back and let us know what you learned! (Use the comments, the Facebook page or just email me – jstahl@voanews.com). And please share any online events you’ve found that we haven’t.

Coming up this week:

March 4

MBA Watch: Your MBA Questions Answered
More details:  http://www.beatthegmat.com/mba/events

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Why the Instructions are the Most Important Part of an SAT Subject Test

by Shree Raj Shrestha - Posts (5). Posted Thursday, February 28th, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Over the past few months Shree has been sharing his experience applying to colleges in the U.S. Several of the steps have caused him some stress, but perhaps none so much as when he took the SAT subject tests. A mistake on his answer sheet caused his scores to be delayed, and left him in jeopardy of missing his application deadline.

The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which designs the exams for the College Board, was nice enough to talk to us about Shree’s story, and give their advice for other test-takers out there on how to avoid finding yourself in this situation. So as you read Shree’s story, pay close attention to the sections in italics – that’s where you’ll see the ETS/College Board’s suggestions.

After spending months preparing for the SAT and the TOEFL, I found preparing for the SAT Subject Tests much easier. I was already, you might say, prepared for preparing for tests. Still, there was something that I was not prepared for – waiting for two whole months to receive my scores.

Some of the colleges I applied to required SAT Subject Tests, and even for the colleges where SAT Subject Tests were not mandatory, it is always recommended. The subject test measures your readiness for college-level courses and is offered for many subjects, ranging from science to language and literature. In one sitting, you can take as many as three, and as few as none of these tests (you can always cancel a test, even all of them, if you do not feel like you did well on it).

Being a science student, I selected three science subjects – physics, chemistry, and mathematics level 2. I took the test on November 3, and the results were supposed to be published on November 23.

A results day surprise

On that day, some of my friends from the USEF/Education USA Advising Center gathered at an internet café and looked at each other’s scores one by one. I waited impatiently for my turn, with the slow internet connection adding up to my impatience. Finally, I logged in to my College Board profile and clicked on the link that was supposed to display my test scores. But instead of the test score, all I got was a blank!

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SAT Exam to be Redesigned

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Thursday, February 28th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

The president of the College Board announced plans to redesign the SAT exam in an email to College Board members earlier this week, which was also posted on the group’s Facebook page.

“We will develop an assessment that mirrors the work that students will do in college so that they will practice the work they need to do to complete college,” David Coleman wrote. “An improved SAT will strongly focus on the core knowledge and skills that evidence shows are most important to prepare students for the rigors of college and career.”

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I’d Rather Be Cleaning: Why The Easy Life Isn’t For Everyone

by Rin Ichino - Posts (3). Posted Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 at 10:57 am

Rin Ichino is a Japanese exchange student from the University of Tokyo spending a year at Bates College in Maine. When she arrived, she found that there was something about her new campus life that made her uneasy – the lack of chores. From cleaning the buildings to emptying the trash, there are maintenance staff to take care of almost everything.  But is her discomfort about it a difference between the Japanese and American cultures, or something else? Here’s Rin’s story:

On the first day I arrived at Bates College, I found myself alone in my new house. I was the only one of the twelve students who would be living there to arrive before classes started. Every room was empty, dark, and quiet as I walked around the house by myself.

It was a hot day for the end of August in Maine, and after going in and out of a couple of rooms looking for an air conditioner, I heard a cheerful voice asking, “Hey, how can I help you?”

This is a picture of my house. It was taken in the fall - the house doesn't look as pretty as this now because of dirty snow.

My house. This picture was taken in the fall – the house doesn’t look as pretty as this now because of the dirty snow.

I turned to find a woman with bright blue eyes in a blue shirt and blue jeans. She was the housekeeper for my house, with two other houses under her care. We introduced ourselves and by the time she finished showing me around the house we had made friends. She told me I wouldn’t need to clean the house, buy our daily goods, or worry about messes after parties. She would not come to our house everyday but told me to ask her for any help I needed.

Living the easy life

Once everyone else arrived on campus and the year got started, it didn’t take much time for me to find that this situation was not unusual. I need to do almost nothing for myself in this campus life.

I can run into the dining hall almost anytime and fetch anything to eat and drink; I can grab a mug with coffee or tea and throw the empty mug into one of the big cans placed all around campus. I don’t need to clean, I don’t need to take the garbage out, I don’t need to do my dishes, I don’t need to go shopping for food. All those things are in the facility service staffs’ hands.

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Show Us: Where Do You Spend Your Time at School?

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Monday, February 25th, 2013 at 10:16 pm

Do you have a favorite spot on campus? A place you wish you could escape but just can’t get away from (the dreaded library cubicle)? Someplace only you know about?

We want to see it! Send us a picture of the place where you spend the most time. We’ll post our favorites next week. Send a photo plus a short description of what it is, where it is and why you picked it, to jstahl@voanews.com.

Here’s one of the most unusual we’ve gotten so far. Any guesses as to what it is or where it was taken? (hint: the school this is at was founded and designed by a U.S. president, and this guy hangs out in one of its departments – as does the student who sent the photo)

Brooks Hall- the anthropology department at UVA

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8 Free Online Events for International Students: Feb. 24-Mar. 2

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Friday, February 22nd, 2013 at 6:00 pm

And here we go with our Friday round up of online webinars and virtual fairs for prospective or current international students.  This week features a lot of variety – everything from sports scholarships to historically black colleges/universities to “Big 10″ schools – plus an interesting-sounding event from the College Board for those who are college-bound.

As always, if you attend any of these events, report back and let us know what you learned! (Use the comments, the Facebook page or just email me – jstahl@voanews.com). And please share any online events you’ve found that we haven’t.

Coming up this week:

February 25

EducationUSA: Sports Scholarships for International Students
3pm US eastern time
More details:  https://events-na1.adobeconnect.com/content/connect/c1/1011637095/en/events/catalog.html?folder-id=1238074207#currentSearchTag=1312381515

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Fawad and Buzkashi Boys: Does Hard Work, or Fate and Coincidence, Create Success?

by Abuzar Royesh - Posts (5). Posted Thursday, February 21st, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Fawad Mohammadi, star of the short film Buzkashi Boys, boards a plane bound for Los Angeles and the Academy Awards. Co-star Jawanmard Paiz is in the background. (Photo: US Embassy Kabul)

Fawad Mohammadi, star of the short film Buzkashi Boys, boards a plane bound for Los Angeles and the Academy Awards. Co-star Jawanmard Paiz is in the background. (Photo: US Embassy Kabul)

As I surf my Facebook newsfeed, a photo catches my attention. Two Afghan boys smile broadly as they board a Turkish airplane. The boys are Fawad Mohammadi and Jawanmard Paiz, the lead actors in “Buzkashi Boys,” an Oscar-nominated short film about friends who dream of becoming horseback riders in Afghanistan’s fierce version of polo. These two young actors are traveling from the dusty streets of Kabul to the red carpet at the 2013 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

This journey is especially auspicious for Fawad, a 14-year-old who sells maps to foreigners on the streets of Kabul, and was chosen for the role because director Sam French, who lived in Afghanistan, would bump into him on the street (French described him as “the kindest and most warm-hearted street-kid”). The youngest of seven siblings, but also a breadwinner for the family, Fawad is about to make his Oscar debut beside prominent movie stars such as Daniel Day-Lewis, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence.

Fawad Mohammadi and Jawanmard Paiz filming a scene for Buzkashi Boys in Kabul (Photo: AP)

Fawad Mohammadi and Jawanmard Paiz filming a scene for Buzkashi Boys in Kabul (Photo: AP)

However, this picture soon kindles other thoughts in my mind. I ponder over the matters of destiny and coincidences; what would have happened if director Sam French had not met Fawad on the streets of Kabul? Was it fate or mere coincidence that took Fawad to the red carpet?

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Aditi Describes What Happens at Sorority Rush Week

by Guest Post - Posts (71). Posted Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 at 7:02 pm

What is “rush week” at an American university? Aditi Bhowmick, a writer for International Student Voice, went through rush at Cornell University, and had this unusual description of the phenomenon:

Rush week is basically seven days when one will see the most number of girls you have ever seen in your entire lives trudging through snow ridges.

In plainer terms, “rush” is the process of applying to join a fraternity or sorority.  In a typical sorority rush, all the potential pledges visit each sorority house, participating in activities and meeting the sorority sisters, as the sororities figure out who they want to take and the pledges figure out where they want to join.  Aditi explained her rush week like this:

…if nothing else, rush week is exciting. As you pass through the doors a sister will sweep you into the most picture perfect parlors. For all you know, you could be starring in a Victorian play where your coats are taken and the most creative drinks are served in champagne glasses. One gets to meet an army of upperclass-women and have conversations about everything from the weather to theses on biology and neuroscience! I have never been so polite and well-mannered in my entire life; my mother would be proud.

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The US in Words #7: YOLO (Finding a Better Version of Myself)

by Paula - Posts (11). Posted Tuesday, February 19th, 2013 at 10:54 am

The seventh in a series looking at U.S. life and culture through its idioms.  View previous entries.

YOLO = You only live once

Yolo tattooA friend who I had met at a hostel in Philadelphia recommended I get a tattoo with the inscription “YOLO,” which stands for “You Only Live Once.” I hadn’t heard the phrase before, but suddenly it seemed to capture something about my life.

Through my experience in the U.S. I have come to be, not someone else exactly, but a more defined, and perhaps better, version of myself, who seeks adventure rather than comfort, and who prefers new experiences over routine.

The person I was a few months ago wouldn’t have been friends with someone I’d met in a hostel, and the person I was a few months ago definitely wouldn’t have been genuinely considering getting a tattoo.

I don’t think it’s the U.S. itself that has made me change, but rather to the opportunity to gain some distance from my normal life and look at it from the outside, gaining a different perspective. I’ve left my country and my family, I’ve adapted to a new environment and culture, I’ve made new friends, I’ve assimilated to different work practices, adopted new habits, learned about other people. All of this has forced me out of my comfort zone and made me question who I am and what I used to believe.

This process of self-examination led me to one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made in my life, which was to break up with my boyfriend. We’d been together for ten—yes, ten—years, lived together for three (in a house we own together and built from scratch), and every single memory since I was sixteen is by his side.

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4 Free Online Events for International Students: Feb. 17-23

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Friday, February 15th, 2013 at 6:44 pm

It’s time for our Friday round up of online webinars and virtual fairs happening in the next week.  This week features the semi-regular International Day virtual college fair over at CollegeWeekLive for prospective undergraduates.

As always, if you attend any of these events, report back and let us know what you learned! (Use the comments, the Facebook page or just email me – jstahl@voanews.com). And please share any online events you’ve found that we haven’t.

Coming up this week:

February 19

mbaMission: MBA Interview Workshop
9pm US eastern time
More details: http://www.manhattangmat.com/EventShow.cfm?EID=3&eventID=11584 

February 20

CollegeWeekLive: International Day Virtual College Fair
More details: http://collegeweeklive.com/en_CA/Guest/CollegeWeekLive_INTERNATIONAL_DAY 

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Shopaholic’s Guide to US Measures: 10 Inches = 2 High Heels

by Anna Malinovskaya - Posts (17). Posted Thursday, February 14th, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I was and still am used to thinking about the world in terms of meters, centimeters, grams and kilograms. Even though I had to memorize the conversion system when I was preparing for my SAT, I quickly forgot it because it felt very unnatural to me. So, in my first year in the U.S., every time I encountered inches, miles, pounds, and ounces, I was lost.

Of course, you can always do the conversion online or on your phone, but after a year in the States, I developed my own system of approximation that I can keep in my mind without any effort whatsoever.

Shopaholic's guide to inches

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Replay: Our State of the Union Watch Party

by Jessica Stahl - Posts (449). Posted Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 at 9:28 am

Thanks to everyone who joined our State of the Union watch party last night.  We had an amazing group that included some of our Student Union bloggers and other international students from around the world who got together right after Obama’s speech to discuss what he talked about … and what he left out.  If you missed it, we’ve got the replay for you right here.  Check it out!

The Student Union is…

A place to hear stories about studying in the U.S. Our bloggers have come from all over the world to U.S. universities, and they'll be sharing their experiences, advice and more.

Learn more about this blog »

Share your own story!
Tell us about your experiences applying to the US, studying in America, or doing an exchange, and we may include it on the blog.


Glossary of Confusing Words

Find definitions of confusing words and terms about studying in the U.S. in our Glossary of Confusing Words.

All the words were submitted by YOU, so visit the glossary to see the words that have been defined already and to suggest your own.