International students add diversity


Katherine Miller/Guilfordian

Shea Orth-Moore (R), an international student form Kenya, talks with fellow first-year Taryn Bonner. She is one of Guilford’s many international students.

A 2006 study found that nine in 10 young Americans could not find Afghanistan on a map. It is ironic that Guilford hosts students from countries this demographic cannot even identify.

Students from all over the world gather at this school in pursuit of opportunity, education and change. Each have their own stories, their own motives.

For one college student, moving here meant settling down from his journey across Asia.

“I was born in Saipan — a U.S. protectorate like Guam,” said Myanmarese international student and junior Zi Huang. “But I grew up mainly in Asia, moving to Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Thailand and finally Myanmar.”

For another student, migrating meant life or death.

“I was born in the capital of Afghanistan,” said international student and first-year Farhad Walizai. “When I was two or three, I moved to Pakistan because of the (Afghan War) and when I was seven I moved here for a better future.”

But these extreme endeavors are usually not the norm. For the majority of foreign students at this school, it is simply about education and experience.

“Guilford’s diversity is part of what makes the college unique,” said Rwandan international student and junior Yves Dusunge in an email interview. “Meeting different people with different perspectives about ideas opens up great learning opportunities.”

That is not to say the United States has better educational programs than other countries. Many foreign institutions offer prestigious curriculums as well.

“The education system is really good back home and (students studying abroad) can have a great experience (in Israel),” said Israeli international student and sophomore Yazan Khalaf. “I really enjoy (America) but I also really miss home.”

A person’s life does not begin when they choose to study abroad. International students have accumulated many interesting tales during the time they spent in their home country. In some cases, these stories are rather dark.

“In Cambodia, when I was a kid, I (lived) in a warzone,” said Zi. “With a kid’s mindset, I thought the explosions in the sky were fireworks. At the same time, my parents told me to be quiet because if we made a sound, enemy soldiers could shoot us.”

Others clearly remember awe-inspiring sights that always brighten up their day.

“I visited (Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda) a few years ago and was able to see gorillas,” said Desunge. “The view from the volcanoes is breathtaking.”

What is most important are the lessons studying abroad brings. By visiting another country, one finds a new perspective on life.

“You don’t travel just to discover the world, but you travel to discover yourself,” said Iranian international student and first-year Muhadisa Daqiq in an email interview. “(Throughout my travels) I learned that about myself. Being and living in different communities opens your mind. You (notice) your (unconscious behaviors) and realize that you are the only one who (has a) different hair color, skin color, accent, language and religion.  (When you visit) another country, you realize that the world is bigger than you thought.”

Indeed the world is much larger than the small community everyone enjoys here at this school, but students are still able to experience an abundance of cultures and diversity that truly make the school unique.

“I like Guilford because of the diversity, environment and friendliness,” said Togolese international student and first-year Kaled Atchabao. “In addition, Guilford has teachers that really care about their students.”

So next time you talk to an international student, ask them about their experiences. And maybe, just maybe, become an international student yourself.