Over 135 Pakistani undergraduate students, selected to participate in the U.S. Government-funded Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD), gathered in Islamabad for a two-day pre-departure orientation (PDO). The PDO is the last stop for students before they depart to the United States and serves as an introduction on what to expect during the semester-long grant. Students are also reminded of the importance of their roles as cultural ambassadors., helping foster mutual understanding between the two countries during the semester exchange.
Each year during the PDO, we are introduced to many dynamic and inspiring individuals eager to learn and make a difference in their local communities. This year too, several stories came to light that showed the immense talent and drive of young Pakistanis. Grantees shared how they overcame social barriers to get where they are and spoke about the challenges of living with disability, coming from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, or belonging to religious, ethnic, and gender minorities.
The guest of honor, American Embassy Chargé d’ Affaires Paul Jones, congratulated the Pakistani undergraduate students who were selected to participate. “America has a long tradition of embracing international students on its university and college campuses,” Ambassador Jones noted. “In the United States, you will become great cultural ambassadors and representatives of Pakistan. I am proud we can support your educational pursuits through the Global UGRAD program.”
Since 2010, approximately 1,700 Pakistani students have participated in the Global UGRAD program, where they spend a semester studying at U.S. colleges and universities. Global UGRAD participants from Pakistan are selected from all four provinces of Pakistan, as well as Gilgit-Baltistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Islamabad Capital Territory. They represent a broad range of academic fields including the humanities, basic sciences, engineering, and business administration.
This year’s star alumna, Samia Farooq, delivered a speech at the PDO, which highlighted the transformative impact of the program and stressed the need for hard work. Farooq is a Global UGRAD Spring 2015 alumna, from Bahawalpur. She is a veterinary doctor, and the first South Asian trainer accredited by the Savory Institute in United States, to teach holistic management. Speaking about her UGRAD experience, she said, “These five months can be a life changing experience for literally anyone and everyone of you provided that you put in your efforts… I request you all to please take this journey as your responsibility to represent the best of yourself, your home institution, your culture, your country, your family, this family (USEFP, Global UGRAD) and yourself.”
USEFP Executive Director Rita Akhtar encouraged students to take full advantage of the academic and extracurricular activities available in the United States. “The Global UGRAD program gives talented students who are committed to helping their communities and country, an opportunity to study in the United States,” Ms. Akhtar said. “The Program also involves exciting community service and cultural exchange activities. When Global UGRAD participants return to Pakistan, they have opportunities to build on their volunteer experience by availing small grants through Pakistan – U.S. Alumni Network (PUAN). This is an exceptional group of students who will make a wonderful impression on U.S. students and faculty through this unique exchange opportunity.”
Like other exchange programs administered by USEFP, the Global UGRAD is a well-rounded program that allows students to grow beyond their academic pursuits. The program not only gives students an opportunity to attend classes with their American peers, but also enables them to learn skills that are often overlooked in traditional classrooms. They receive instruction on topics including academic research and writing, critical thinking, time management, note-taking and studying for/taking tests. Students also gain a lot through extracurricular activities, both inside and outside the campus. The most meaningful takeaway for these students, though, is the experience of meeting and interacting with people from all across the world.
The Global UGRAD Program is announced each year, in September/October. To find out more about the eligibility criteria, application procedure, and deadline, visit here.