Four foreign students made their maiden voyage into Dickinson this past weekend as they embark on an expedition unlike anything they've yet to experience.
Rija Nazir, Maryam Zahid and Arslan Khowaja, of Pakistan, and Geritt Koelling, of Germany, are four of the 11 students who were selected through various foreign exchange student programs to attend Dickinson State University during the fall. Other countries participating in the foreign exchange student program come from South Korea, Japan and Tunisia.
Each entering the United States for the very first time, some students rode through the skies endured 14-plus-hour trips and multiple layovers before reaching their final destination: southwest North Dakota.
Despite the exhausting 14-hour trip from Abu Dhabi to Washington, D.C., with a follow-up flight to Dickinson, Nazir said she appreciated the greetings she has received thus far.
"It was a tiring journey," Nazir said. "But I got the experience of travel for such a long time. I've never traveled to the United States before. I meet a lot of nice people in Washington, D.C., and in Dickinson, everyone has been really friendly. The people in my dorm have been really helpful because I'm new here."
Koelling, who will study business at DSU, is one of 75 students chosen to come to the United States by way of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals. After stops in New York and Denver, Koelling is eager to take advantage of what the states have to offer.
"For me, it's a big opportunity to be a part of this program," Koelling said. "I can improve my English skills and do an internship with a company. I'm very glad to be a part of this program. A big dream of mine was to stay in the United States of America for one year and now this dream comes true."
For Khowaja, a business administration major, his inquisitiveness doesn't stop with Dickinson. He plans to see as much as this country as he can.
"I want to learn how Americans are and what their backgrounds are," Khowaja said. "I want to learn how one place is different from other places in the United States. I will be traveling to different places. Pakistan is a developing country, but America is a well-developed country, so I wanted to learn how America performs their community services in terms of love, care and sincerity."
Zahid, a finance major, takes pride in her chance to serve as a cultural ambassador. She looks forward to learning what life is like in America while teaching others what it means to be Pakistani.
"I've been looking forward to coming to the United States and have an exposure that I will get once in a lifetime" Zahid said. "It's been so far, so good. I have met people from various cultures in just less than a week and I look forward to meeting even more people for a wider experience in the upcoming months."
Zahid was particularly curious as to how she'd be received in America's heartland.
"When I was traveling to the United States, there was one question and one very eager curiosity inside me: What do the people of the United States think about Pakistanis when they look at us or look at the brown people or Asian community in general? We all know that about racial differences and some of the misconceptions," she said. "So I'm curious of the perceptions and accordingly (seek to) remove any of the misconceptions."
Classes are set to begin on Aug. 21.