Finding Home Halfway Around the World
Surfing the internet from her home in Marrakesh, Morocco, Fatima Ousaid knew she had found what she was looking for – a school abroad with a strong mechanical engineering program. But, it was something else about Bradley that caught her eye initially.
“It was the red,” Ousaid said. “Red is my favorite color, and my hometown is called The Red City, because every building is in red.” It was destiny.
But, she quickly learned, red was one of few familiarities to be found here. Everything else was new: the food, the people and the weather.
“It was really cold,” Ousaid said. “My city doesn't have snow, so it was a very weird sensation. But at the same time, it was nice. It was new.”
For graduate computer science student Sai Tharun Manupati, Bradley’s just-right size was what drew him all the way from Hyderabad, India. Being able to stand out while still having people to lean on was incredibly important for his experience studying abroad. Now, as president of the Indian Student Association, he takes pride in offering that same support to other students in the same shoes.
“The transition from one country to another country is a really big step for us. My main responsibility is to get them comfortable and get them confident that we are there for them,” he said.
Communicating in a different language surrounded by native speakers is a big challenge for international students. According to Ousaid, it can be isolating and intimidating, but she resolved to stay involved.
“I found the International Students Association, and a lot of people were going through the same things I was going through,” Ousaid said. “I spoke English, but it was textbook English. So just getting used to hearing spoken English, having full on conversations in English [with other ISA members] – I found my comforts there.”
Now a junior and the president of the ISA, Ousaid is in charge of everything from communications with administration to fundraising to advertising and beyond. She even attends orientations for international students to provide a welcoming environment. With five main events a year, plus collaborations with other student organizations, Ousaid and the ISA aim to host events biweekly.
“They're all events where you come to just chill, you make friends and there's all sorts of activities,” Ousaid said. “One of our events was international games, so everyone brought a game they used to play in their country and we just bonded over playing games,” Ousaid said.
One of their big events is a gala held in April called Cultures Around the Globe.“We cater a lot of international cuisines, and then we have a fashion show where our international students do a runway show in their traditional clothes,” she said. “We have singing, dancing, traditional stuff like that, and it's really fun.”
On top of leading the ISA, Ousaid is also president of the African Student Association and Anime Club, which she finds exceedingly fulfilling. For those looking to follow in her footsteps and study abroad at Bradley, she offers up some pro tips.
“Bring warm clothes. You'll find friends and everything, just don't be shy. A lot of international students don't know that Bradley offers help, but there's a lot of resources available, so just ask.”
That sentiment is echoed by Manupati.
“My advice is, take that big step. Every student has that thought, ‘Will I be able to survive here?’ Once they get out of that comfort zone, they will be able to achieve their full potential,” he said.
“I've seen many students, including me, who wouldn't talk with anyone. I used to just be in my own zone. But when I changed my mindset, everything changed.”
The Indian Student Association also hosts regular meetings and events to help bring students closer together, with celebrations for Holi and Diwali serving as standouts.