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University Community Embraces Scholars from Around the World
Forty-five Fulbright scholars from 29 countries arrived at Syracuse University in July to attend a four-week English for Graduate Studies program. The Fulbright program is one of the most widely recognized and prestigious international exchange programs in the world. Applicants must excel academically and are required to have a record of experience and accomplishment in an area related to one of the designated research themes.
Hayasa Tahmazyan, an Armenian humanitarian worker, was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in international development. Before beginning her graduate studies at Ohio University, she attended the pre-academic program administered by Syracuse University’s English Language Institute.
“The people I met became my family in Syracuse,” says Tahmazyan. “Each of them made me feel the warmth of home. Conversation between participants was not about simple communication. It was about encouraging each other and making them feel that everyone was able to achieve his or her goals.”
Anas Buhayh, from Libya, says his experience at Syracuse University was simply amazing. This is his first time in the United States. He arrived a day late due to his long journey and cancelled flights. “The diversity in the United States makes you feel like you are on international land so you don’t feel like a foreigner,” says Buhayh. “I felt very welcomed. Most of the students came and introduced themselves when I arrived, and in no time I was part of this big family.”
“The Fulbright students were overwhelmed by the hospitality and warmth offered by the host families in Syracuse and surrounding towns,” adds David Lind, director of the English Language Institute at University College.
Thirteen staff and faculty members from across campus hosted the students for dinner in their homes. “They were able to experience the generosity and welcoming spirit of American families at a time when this defining characteristic of American culture can appear eroded by the national discourse,” he says. “The opportunity was deeply appreciated by the students.”
This was the second year that Margaret Thompson, a program analyst at University College, hosted the scholars. “It’s an enriching experience, from learning about different cultures, religions and politics to sharing a meal and being a ‘home away from home’ to them—even if only for a few hours,” says Thompson. “We enjoyed learning about their families and traditions and sharing our own. We discovered that learning the things we have in common is just as exciting as learning about our differences.”
The scholars found the academic program rigorous. “There were sleepless nights, stressful exams, hectic practices and the uncertainty of the future,” says Tahmazyan. “But the experience comes with a confidence and belief in yourself.”
Sue Corieri, assistant dean for Enrollment Management and Special Academic Program Initiatives for the School of Information Studies, says the selection of Syracuse University by the Fulbright Commission is testament to the excellent programming and service offered by the English Language Institute.
“The presence of such an inspiring group of scholars who truly represent the globe and the inquisitive minds of various disciplines adds tremendous value to our campus and community,” says Corieri.
In addition to their studies, the students were immersed in the culture and geography of Syracuse and the surrounding area.
Fatima Rodriquez Pacas from El Salvador enjoyed visiting the Finger Lakes and Niagara Falls on the weekends. Pacas comes from a family of professors and is a second generation professional. Because of her background, her dream was to get a Fulbright Scholarship.
“I studied hard,” Pacas says. “I didn’t begin to learn English until the age of 19.” Because her English skills were not strong enough, she had to apply to the program a second time. “What is unique about Syracuse is encountering students from around the world and listening to lectures from instructors from different countries who settled in Syracuse. This is a lifetime experience that allowed us to create a more inclusive, diverse and accurate understanding of ourselves and the people around us,” says Pacas.
Reverend Brian Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel, agrees with Pacas’ assessment. “To visit with our Fulbright students was a tremendous joy,” says Konkol. “When learning of their personal stories and professional dreams, not only was I given hope for the future of our global community, but once again we were shown how Syracuse University is dearly enriched through such intentional engagement. My hope is that our visitors were enriched through their time on campus, for I know that our campus was enriched because of their presence.”