MURRAY, Ky. — After landing from a 16-hour flight to discover his luggage was lost, Muhammad F. was ready to board a plane home to Pakistan — until he met his first Racer.

“One of my classmates picked me up from the airport and let me borrow his clothes and shoes,” Muhammad said. “His friendliness instantly stood out to me.”

Muhammad is a mechanical engineering student from Gujranwala, Pakistan, serving as a cultural ambassador for the fall 2018 semester at Murray State University. He is supported by scholarships through the prestigious Global UGRAD-Pakistan program, which provides talented, highly-motivated undergraduate students from underserved populations across Pakistan with the opportunity to study at U.S. colleges or universities. Out of 25,000 applicants, Muhammad was one of 200 students selected to come to the United States.

“This is a highly-competitive leadership program used to bridge the gap between the people of the United States and Pakistan,” Muhammad said. “I have the tremendous responsibility of exchanging culture with Americans, representing my home country and gaining experiences to benefit me in my future career of mechanical engineering.”

International Student Advisor Madison Lane says partnerships such as the UGRAD-Pakistan program are invaluable to enhancing global awareness at Murray State.

“By hosting UGRAD fellows, domestic students at Murray State University will have the opportunity to have meaningful interactions with students from Pakistan and other countries,” Lane said. “Such interactions will better prepare domestic students for the ever-changing global landscape we live in and afford them an international experience without even leaving the country.”

Muhammad’s cultural exchange occurs in many different ways: meeting with professors, volunteering at nonprofit organizations and meeting fellow international students.

“My engineering professor, Dr. Gheorghe Bunget, was so friendly to me when he showed me how to use Canvas [the University’s learning management system],” Muhammad said. “He cared for me not only as a student but as an individual. He gave me suggestions on where to travel and offered to give me a ride to the Nashville airport.”

An unexpected yet cherished part of his Murray State experience has been meeting students from around the globe, he added.

“There are very little international students at my home university in Pakistan,” Muhammad said. “Now, I have friends from over 25 countries.”

Muhammad strives to show the same friendliness he has received time and time again at Murray State to others in the Racer family. By volunteering at Needline, a local food bank, he said he has treasured the memories of working alongside his peers to help others in need.

“Murray is small, but the number of nonprofits is huge,” Muhammad said. “It just shows how friendly this place is — and I am so glad to be a part of it.”

One of Muhammad’s favorite memories at Murray State has been traveling with the International Student Organization to an air show in Union City, Tennessee.

“It was the best day ever,” Muhammad said. “I have found the happiest people here who have made my experience amazing.”

After completing the UGRAD program, Muhammad plans on working in the Pakistan mechanical engineering field.

Whether international students hear about the University through an academic fellowship or the recommendation of a friend, Lane encourages them to take advantage of the unique opportunities afforded at Murray State.

“Murray State is a student-centered University that offers numerous specialized services to international students, including an airport greeter, shuttle service to campus and assistance in housing, banking and DMV/Social Security applications,” Lane said. “The safe community and low student-to-teacher ratio allows international students to have the cultural experience of a lifetime with a vibrant international student body of 300+ students from over 50 countries.”

This tight-knit community is often fostered in the International Student Organization, which serves as an umbrella organization to give students from smaller represented countries the opportunity to belong to a formal student organization.

“The International Student Organization helps plan welcoming events and social activities for new and existing international students throughout the academic year,” Lane said. “Students involved in the organization participate in signature cultural events, such as the Homecoming Parade, Tent City, All Campus Sing, International Education Week, International Bazaar and Multicultural Night.”

For more information about the UGRAD program and international opportunities at Murray State, please visit murraystate.edu/international.

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