This article is part of a series published for International Education Week (Nov. 13-16, 2018) and illustrates the contributions made by international students to UCLA campus life.
UCLA International Institute, November 15, 2018 — Many Bruins are unaware of a wonderful program of the UCLA Dashew Center for International Students & Scholars that deploys volunteer international students as ambassadors of their home countries and cultures on the UCLA campus: the UCLA International Student Ambassadors Program.
Ambassadors are one of the first points of contact for incoming international students, and support them by providing advice and resources to help ease their transition to life in Los Angeles and at UCLA. They also advocate to UCLA staff and faculty on behalf of the entire international community to make sure their voice is heard. And they are a resource about their countries and cultures for their American and other international peers on campus.
Below are two profiles of current Bruin student ambassadors, several of which will be on hand to lead discussions at an upcoming International Education Week event: the Conversation Cafe. Hosted by UCLA Library and facilitated by the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association, the event takes place on Friday, November 16, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at UCLA Powell Library Rotunda & East Rotunda. All students, faculty and staff are welcome.
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International Student Ambassador for Singapore & Nigeria
Student: Chirag Thadani, UCLA 2020
Major/ Minor: Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics/ Evolutionary Medicine minor
Tell us about yourself. I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, where I lived for seven-and-a-half years, after which I moved to India, where my family is originally from. But officially, I have been a Singapore national since the age of four. I currently work as a research assistant in a neurobiology lab. In my free time, I love to travel and explore different cultures by meeting new people.
Why did you choose to come to UCLA? Coming to UCLA, or even the U.S., was not a part of my original plan. I happened to apply to the U.S. for a bachelor's degree program just as a backup option.
Applying to UCLA specifically is a special story in itself because, as per the suggestion of some of my counselors, I had only planned to apply to UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine. It was only at the last minute that I decided to select UCLA as one of the campuses to which I sent my application. I will forever be grateful to have made that decision.
Upon getting an acceptance from UCLA, I was overwhelmed by looking at the opportunities this university provides its students. Reading more about UCLA gave me the insight that I would be able to shape my career and future in a meaningful way here. Furthermore, I was mesmerized by the beauty of this campus; something I still get distracted by on a daily basis.
What is the biggest difference between your home country and the U.S.? I have changed schools and cities multiple times. Hence, I cannot associate one particular place with home.
Based on my experience of living in India and Singapore, people there are extremely attached to their friends and family, in a way we do not quite see in any of the western countries. For instance, in their daily lives, people from India make a constant effort to build relationships with the people around them.
Other than the cultural difference, the food is something I am still getting used to. I was used to extremely flavorful food dishes, but living here for two years has acclimatized me to enjoy a sandwich or salad.
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International Student Ambassador for Jordan & Greece
Student: Farah Nuqul, UCLA 2019
Major: Political Science
Tell us about yourself. I am half Jordanian and half Greek. I was born and raised in Jordan, but Amman and Athens are both home. I am obsessed with everything to do with fashion and I love to travel. In addition, I love trying different kinds of food and cuisines. When I do not have anything to do, I love to watch T.V. shows and movies.
Why did you choose to come to UCLA? I have always loved the idea of studying in LA and knew that if I wanted to come all the way to the States for my studies, I would want to come to LA. So when I received my acceptance letter from UCLA, I felt like it was meant to be.
What is the biggest difference between your home country and the U.S.? The culture is definitely different; Jordan is far more conservative and so the norms that exist within Jordanian society are more restrictive. However, Greece is mostly similar to the U.S., culture-wise, with the exception of a few things.