Alumni Update – Mauritania

Aicha Fall (Mauritania), Tennessee Tech University, Global UGRAD 2015-16

Global UGRAD –

I don’t even know from where to start. A mind blowing experience for me to say the least. Visiting the States was one of my biggest goals. I loved the culture and people,  I always dreamed of visiting the States and having the chance to meet Ms. Oprah Winfrey and Mr. Obama as those two were, and still are, role models to me. Yes, I had this big dream but not the means to travel and I thank god and the Global UGRAD team that I made one of those dreams come true: visiting the U.S.

I thought it wouldn’t get any better, but little did I know, god had greater plans for me. Aicha FallWhen I came back, I had this different way of looking at life, a more positive and patient way. I had gained self confidence and self appreciation. Those qualities helped me set higher goals that I am working on making come true with the help of god, my family, friends, and the entire Global UGRAD team. I created a Youtube Channel and used that platform to share my experience and also help all those who love English the way I do to understand it better.

I had submitted all my documents at TTU to come back in the Fall of 2016 to complete my masters degree in Rural Engineering , but due to some difficulties, that was one closed door among a lot of other open ones. I then decided that I would apply for a job and save for my 2 years of masters education, so I started reaching out to companies. One of the places that I loved to work at was the embassy of the USA in Mauritania as it would help me to still be in an English-speaking environment. Being on very good terms with people at the embassy led to receiving an email from a friend and mentor. The email that literally changed my life for the best. It was a job announcement at the American International School of Nouakchott as the Admin Assistant/Events Coordinator. I applied and got selected for an interview and then got the job. This is my second year working with them and I am grateful for every single second that I spend at work.

I remember how surprised they were of my English when I was called for the interview, but I am pretty sure that putting down on my resume that I have been to a university in the States definitely added a tremendous plus to my selection. And once again, it’s all thanks to the Global UGRAD Program that not only sent us to the states, but also helped us discover a better version of ourselves.

I had been chosen to be a member of the interviewing panel for the selection of the future Global UGRAD students. I met with people at the embassy and we are planning on making a video that will help advertise the Global UGRAD Program in Mauritania.

I can’t thank the Global UGRAD team enough. I just don’t have the words. Your help and support are highly appreciated!

Alumni Update: Global UGRAD 360

Jessica Maria Cruz Barrios (Panama), University of Kansas, Global UGRAD 2016-17

Jessica Cruz_cropped

Global UGRAD was for me the start of an unimaginable journey where I discovered that everything is possible if I give it a shot and do my best. Being recipient of this scholarship brings the best of you in so many areas. Global UGRAD opened my eyes to cultural and academic aspects in a way I never imagined. While being at the University of Kansas, I had the opportunity to meet so many people from around the world in just one place, which helped me to adopt some of the habits they had to improve my soft skills.

Once I returned from the exchange, I remember I suffered from what everybody talked talked about before: “reverse cultural shock”. Before leaving I thought that it wouldn’t be my case and I would be able to make a perfect transition, but it was not so… leaving my university and all my friends was something that hit me hard for days. However, life continues and I focused on my priority which was to finish my degree. Who would think that one year later, I would be back to Washington D.C through a scholarship sponsored by Panama’s government doing an internship for fall semester?

Although I’ve been catching up with the busy life in Washington D.C, I’ve been able to explore more fine places and even travel to other states like California. While being in California, I met with the current Global UGRAD from California State University along with another Global UGRAD alum, Lady Jurado. We spent some time chatting about the Global UGRAD experience and sharing advice before flying back to D.C.

Meeting current GlobalUGRADs brought me back memories of my student life in Kansas, and I felt so happy to be able to listen to their experiences. I also felt moved to realize that I was in the position to give advice as alumni. It is funny how life makes sure to bring you back to things you love, and I realized that although I finished the program last year, the lessons still remain as well as a big international family that keeps growing. I’m glad to always say “Once a UGRAD always a UGRAD”.

Global UGRAD in Parliament

Edison BroceGlobal Ugrad alumnus, Edison Broce, currently serves as the youngest Member of Parliament – Diputado Suplente – of the Panama National Assembly. He is the first “Son of Democracy” (born in 1990) to be elected in a public office in the history of Panama.

Soon after being elected in the general elections, he was unanimously elected President of the Diputados Suplentes Members of Parliament at 23 years old. His priorities as a politician are education, youth empowerment, environmental protection, and gender equality.

At the National Assembly, Edison has introduced bills such as The Youth Bill, which seeks to create the National Youth Institute and a legal framework for this segment of society; the Recycling Bill that will enable the public sector to start this practice (recently approved by the parliament); and several other proposed initiatives. He was also a key player in passing the legislation that created the Ministry of Environment in Panama.Edison 2

Edison is a member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB). Within this network, he has participated in parliamentary duties in New York, Burma, Berlin, Brazil, Nepal, Thailand, and the U.K. Additionally, he has given talks nationally and internationally (e.g. University of Oxford; The American University in Cairo (AUC)).

Edison possesses a bachelor degree in Law and a master in Procedural Law, both from USMA University in Panama, and a master in Public Policy at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.

Global UGRAD Fall 2017 University Site Visits

University of ConnecticutThis October, Will O’Roark had the opportunity to travel to the University of Connecticut – a new partner on the Global UGRAD Program. UConn is the largest university in the state and is home to over 23,000 students. The university is proud of its strong engineering program and its nationally recognized women’s and men’s basketball programs. In addition to meeting with university administrators and staff in the international office, Will spent time with Global UGRAD participants Yana Said (Lebanon), Levan Abramishvili (Georgia), and Nalifa Mehelin (Bangladesh). The World Learning team would like to thank Roy Pietro and Laura Labato for the excellent work they’ve done supporting the Global UGRADs this semester.

SiteVisitAllThree Global UGRAD participants, Salman Qaed (Bahrain), Trisha Lindo (Costa Rica), and Alex Sivixay (Laos), warmly welcomed Roya Zahed to Maryville College in beautiful east Tennessee. Fall had definitely arrived to campus and the classic brick buildings were surrounded by brightly colored trees. Maryville College has hosted Global UGRAD participants for years, and this trip was an opportunity for us to thank the Center for International Education for their dedication to creating a fun and hospitable home for our participants. A round of applause to Kirsten Sheppard and the CIP team for making Maryville an awesome landing spot for Global UGRAD!


UTK buildingAlthough the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is a Global UGRAD spring semester host, Roya had the change to visit Erik Simons in the International Student and Scholars Services and get a tour of campus. Highlights of the trip include seeing UTK’s Neyland stadium, one of the biggest stadiums in the U.S., the International House, and the brand new Student Union building. Big thanks to Erik and the team for hosting four students in the spring and for being a wonderful partner on the Global UGRAD Program.



site visitLast but not least, Bethany Gilchrist spent time at Minnesota State University – Mankato visiting with Global UGRAD participants Khadijetou Wane (Mauritania) and Farkhunda Ismonova (Tajikistan). Though MNSU-Mankato has been a long standing World Learning partner, it had been several years since we had made our way to campus! We are so grateful for the consistently strong support and care that our participants receive from the staff of both the Center for English Language Programs and International Student & Scholar Services – and in particular, from Sponsored Student Specialist Dan Schwartz. Thank you for all that you do!

A Season of Thanksgiving: Gratitude & Goodbyes

Written by Global UGRAD Program Officer Roya Zahed

I love Thanksgiving. Although every new day brings us reasons to celebrate, in the U.S., the fourth Thursday of November is specially marked to reflect on all the things that make life so good. What are you thankful for, Global UGRAD? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Earning an “A” on an exam that you didn’t have time to study for
  • The dining hall that finally served rice the ways it’s “supposed” to taste
  • The RA who let you into your room after you locked yourself out – for the 3rd time that week
  • The other Global UGRAD on campus who reminds you every time a World Learning document is due – we’re thankful for them too
  • The friend who introduced him/herself to you during orientation week on your brand new U.S. campus and has become one of your best buddies
  • The professor who gave you the courage to apply for Global UGRAD when you didn’t think you stood a chance

As for me, I’m thankful for Global UGRAD. After nearly five years on the program, I am saying goodbye, but not before expressing my immense gratitude toward everyone who has been a part of this journey with me. Thank you to the U.S. Embassy and Fulbright Commission staff abroad and to U.S. host institution administration who keep this program moving.

And to all of you students… where do I begin?Roya standing with two students

I took this job because I knew I wanted to work with international students, but I had no idea it would help me understand the world in a much more clear, and in a much more good, way. Global UGRADs teach me things I can’t learn in books, you help me see your countries through your lenses, you show me the beauty of connecting across cultures, and you show me a future fueled by your good ideas and your kindness to others. I’m moving on to a new job where I still get to work with college students, because you all have me absolutely hooked. Thanks for bringing me into your worlds and being a part of mine.

Cheers from Global UGRAD’s biggest fan, and in every language, thank you & goodbye,

U.S. Academic Culture: A Firsthand Reflection

Hasna El Asri (Morocco), Global UGRAD 2017-2018, Saginaw Valley State University

study2The only truth I used to hold in my mind about the U.S. academic system was its ranking among the first globally. Today, I am experiencing this truth through my own personal perspective. I finally stepped into the American classroom and gained the greatest insight into what is truly called the U.S. academic system. As a Global UGRAD exchange student in Saginaw Valley State University, I can observe and learn about all the different and effective approaches that are used in an American university.

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The Global UGRAD Booklist – Part II

National Book Month may be over, but reading suggestions from our current participants and alumni are not! Check out what the Global UGRADs are into this month:

Sibongile - readingSibongile Hokonya (Zimbabwe), Carroll College, Global UGRAD 2017-18
Concrete Economics by J. Bradford DeLong and Stephen S. Cohen
My room was very warm today and so I decided to sit outside and enjoy the cool breeze whilst reading this book. It is a book that summarizes the steps that were taken by former U.S Presidents to build the strong, developed American Economy we see today. Being a Finance person, I found this book interesting and helpful.






Andrea Matamoros bookAndrea Matamoros (Honduras), Mississippi College, Global UGRAD 2017-18 
I Am Malala by Christina Lamb and Malala Yousafzai
With this book, I learned a lot about how everyone can fight for their rights and be strong in hard moments.






Vuk Vukovic bookVuk Vukovic (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Endicott College, Global UGRAD 2017-18
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Cliff Chiang and The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr.
I come from Bosnia, currently in Endicott College in Massachusetts and I love reading graphic novels.


Dirce readingDirce Da Silva Pandza (Mozambique), St. Catherine University, Global UGRAD 2017-18
The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun
This is one of the books that I most enjoy reading. The book is a story of man (Adam Braun) who contributes to the world’s change and inspires others to the same or even more. He was/is a huge dreamer and he could accomplish his goal of providing education to children in the developing countries. It is such an amazing book. He gives us some tips about “how a ordinary person can create extraordinary change”.


Haneen Ahmed bookHaneen Bweerat (Israel), University of Minnesota Twin Cities, Global UGRAD 2017-18
The Night Counter by Alia Younis
My Auntie is a writer and I didn’t know until recently! Alia Younis finally came to visit from Abu-dhabi and brought me a bag full of joy. Her book brought me so much joy… Her book The Night Counter was first published in 2009. It talks about the beautiful and moral Schehrazade from the epic The Arabian Nights when she visited grandmother Fatima in Los Angeles. Fatima knows all about weaving a story that will dazzle, delight, and always promises an unexpected ending. But what stories will she tell if she had only 9 days to tell them?! I’m not just recommending this book [because] my Auntie wrote it, but because it is worth reading.

Cecilia Sosa croppedCecilia Sosa (Panama), Endicott College, Global UGRAD 2017-18
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The educated people are those who read! This is the phrase of my reading teacher. I chose this book because I read it when I was 14 years old, but it was a little bit smaller, now I have the complete story!


Joel Thum bookJoel Thum (Malaysia), Grand Valley State University, Global UGRAD 2015-16
Last Will by Liza Marklund
Some crime action on the commute!

Global UGRAD Alumni Meet Up in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Will O’Roark, Program Officer – Global UGRAD Eurasia & Central Asia

I had the opportunity to travel to Almaty, Kazakhstan and Dushanbe, Tajikistan at the end of September. Prior to joining World Learning, I spent several years living and working in Central Asia and Eurasia. I had worked as a university administrator at a number of institutions in Kazakhstan, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer teaching English in central Kazakhstan, and recruited participants for the FLEX program in Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

Returning to Central Asia was almost like a ‘homecoming’ for me. I had the chance to meet up with old friends, colleagues, and Peace Corps counterparts. I visited Tajikistan for the first time and it was an incredible experience. I had an amazing time exploring Rudaki Prospect in Dushanbe and trekking the Fan Mountains near Lake Iskanderkul.

While in Almaty, I met with five Global UGRAD alumni. It was great to see familiar faces from past program years and get reacquainted face to face with our incredible alumni. I had the chance to see Aidos Atagullayev (Kazakhstan 15-16); Dinara Shadyrova (Kazakhstan 15-16); Safiya Sadyr (Kazakhstan 15-17); Yuliana Bakulina (Turkmenistan 16-17); and Aiida Bagtyzhanova (Kazakhstan 15-16). I was glad to hear about their future plans and to hear about their successes after returning home from the program. The World Learning team wishes all our alumni the best in the future academic, professional, and personal pursuits, and always likes to hear more about how the Global UGRAD Program has impacted their lives. Stay in touch, Global UGRADs!

Alumni: AEIF 2017 Winner- The arTEA Project

Christine Catindig, Philippines, Utica College, Global UGRAD 2016-2017

The arTEA Project 2

While it is true that the Global UGRAD Program helps its participants answer their questions about the world, the uniqueness of the program also lies in its ability to encourage and influence students to dare ask themselves challenging questions such as “What can we do to serve others?”

The arTEA Project is a Global UGrad alumni-led project that aims to serve young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Zulia State, Venezuela. arTEA is a combination of the words ‘art’ and ‘Trastornos del Espectro Autista’ (TEA) or ASD. The project was developed by three Global UGRAD 2016-2017 alumni, namely: Luis Hernandez Ramirez (Venezuela), Christine Grace Catindig (Philippines), and José Gabriel Barreat (Venezuela).

arTEA’s main objective is to help hone the artistic talents of young people with ASD so they can learn how to express themselves better, develop their personal independence, and successfully accomplish activities in an inclusive environment. In the coming months, the team will launch workshops on music, culinary arts, storytelling, drama, and plastic arts. This will be followed by workshops for parents, guardians, and mentors so they can have access to resources that will help them know how they can assist children with ASD.

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The Global UGRAD Booklist: National Book Month

Happy National Book Month! We hope you’ll find time to cozy up with a book, maybe a blanket, and a hot beverage. If you’re looking for some inspiration for your booklist, our Global UGRAD participants and alumni are here to tell you which books they’re reading.

Thongdee bookThongdee Thanyalak (Thailand), St. Catherine University, Global UGRAD 2017-18

God’s Bits of Wood – Ousmane Sembène
This is the true-story-based African novel by Sembene Ousmane, a Senegalese writer, about the railroad company strike in 1947 of Senegalese workmen against the French colonizers. Actually, the book is required in my Literature class. However, I love it! It shows me how hard people have been fighting for harmony in the world. Colonization is bad in some cases, but on the other hand, it gives people some precious lessons about life and how to be compassionate to ones who have less than us.

Maxim book

Maksim Kim (Uzbekistan), CSU-San Marcos, Global UGRAD 2016-17

All the Birds in the Sky – Charlie Jane Anders
“All the Birds in the Sky” by Charlie Jane Anders. The book is a mix of science fiction and fantasy



Soumayani Ghoshal (india), Chatham University, Global UGRAD 2017-18

The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros
Filled with mini stories, this book is one you just can’t put down until you have flipped through all the adventures it has to offer. Luckily, it’s also part of my multicultural literature class.

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Getting a Jump-Start on Community Service!

The Global UGRAD students complete a minimum of 20 hours community service during their academic semester in the United States. While many are just beginning to think about how they’d like to spend their time volunteering, others have already started! Here is Aarif Badarny’s (Israel) account of his first experience doing community service near his host campus, Castleton University.

Aarif (Israel) and Tianjiao (China) volunteering at Vermont Great 2-4-6-8K Run, Walk, Relay in Rutland Vermont

Aarif (Israel) and Tianjiao (China) volunteering at Vermont Great 2-4-6-8K Run, Walk, Relay in Rutland, Vermont

On September 23rd, Tianjiao and I volunteered in the Vermont Great 2-4-6-8K Run, Walk, Relay. The event took place in Rutland on a beautiful Saturday. This event is incredible because it raises awareness for cancer. Most importantly, all the money raised will be donated to the research and treatment of this illness. Our task was to help guide the participants to the right way. While it might seem like a small job, helping the people and receiving positive feedback and smiles from the people was heartwarming. The feelings of excitement, joy, and gratitude that came from being part of such an amazing cause made it a memorable experience.