February 22, 2016 1:45PM
Three of the 500 or so international students studying at Pittsburg State University this semester have an unusual requirement. In addition to maintaining good grades, they must participate in volunteer community service activities.
Bakhmal Odibekova, from Tajikistan; Mahmood Mahfoodh, from Bahrain; and Salome Pkhaladze, from Georgia; are part of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program, which lasts just a semester, is designed to help future leaders in countries around the world experience the U.S. educational system, society and culture.
Odibekova said she recently went along on a service project to a local nursing home with PSU Campus Christians.
“I was impressed by how well the residents were cared for,” Odibekova said.
Mahfoodh added that he thought of the community service requirement as a way to better experience the real America.
Just 250 of the top students around the world are selected for this program and Pitt State is very proud to have been chosen to host, according to Aaron Hurt, assistant director for international recruitment and undergraduate admission in PSU’s Office of International Programs and Services.
“It is really a prestigious honor to have been selected as a host institution,” Hurt said. We had to complete an extensive application process to be eligible to receive students through the Global UGRAD program. World Learning looks for host institutions that are able to provide a high level of academic, cultural, and personal support to the students. Resources such as career centers, writing centers, international student services and other support centers play an integral role in the selection process.”
Previously, each of the students at PSU this semester has completed at least two years of university study in their home country and all are fluent in English. Odibekova is studying philology and linguistics, Mahfoodh is majoring in mechanical engineering, and Pkhaladze is studying journalism. At PSU, each is carrying 15 credit hours and is expected to maintain high academic standards, they said.
And, they have their eye on leadership.
“One of the things this program does, is help us improve our leadership skills,” said Pkhaladze. “This is a very positive program. The three of us are very lucky that we have become part of it.”
Hurt added that PSU benefits from the program, as well.
“PSU benefits greatly from this program as it allows our campus community the opportunity to learn about different world cultures and traditions,” Hurt said. “We do not typically get students from Bahrain, Georgia and Tajikistan. These students provide an exchange experience with strong academic, cross-cultural, and leadership competencies.”