Global UGRAD student from Kyrgyzstan has experienced kindness from strangers and created lasting memories

Aigerim Kurmanbekova puts a pin in her country

When Kyrgyzstan exchange student Aigerim Kurmanbekova first arrived on campus on August 25, a Civil engineering student who spoke little English, her taxi driver had dropped her off at the wrong address. Her phone battery had run out and she quickly became lost and unable to find her dorm. Some students saw her struggling with her luggage, and helped Kurmanbekova find her way around campus, despite the language barrier. She says this was her first real impression of the United States, a place where people were quick to help someone in need, even a stranger who was still learning English.

The Office of International Programs is hosting Kurmanbekova, originally from Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, via the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD) in collaboration with World Learning and the U.S. Department of State. Global UGRAD is a semester long exchange program that sends students around the world for academic, professional and community development.

"I really enjoy it," says Kurmanbekova. "Wayne State has a lot of opportunities, like clubs and student programs." She says the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic Universitydoes not have the same breath of clubs and events that WSU does, and it has inspired her to try and start similar student organizations when she gets back, such as a club for engineering students.

As part of International Student Welcome, Kurmanbekova was able to place a pin in Kyrgyzstan on a map. As one of the few Kyrgyz to ever attend WSU, Kurmanbekova says she felt it was her responsibility to tell people about her country. "Most people have never heard of it," says Kurmanbekova. "When I put the pin in my country on the map during the International Student Welcome, I was very enthusiastic and excited. I was glad that I had the chance to represent my country."

Kurmanbekova's positive experience with her fellow students continued while she was volunteering at the WSU Food Pantry. She says she initially had trouble due to the variety of product labels she didn't recognize, but her fellow volunteers quickly got her acquainted. The community service requirement of Global UGRAD gave her opportunities to socialize with people she never would have met.

She was also able to volunteer at the Michigan Science Center, working at a station where she helped visitors check the cleanliness of drinking water. She says this was an unforgettable experience as it made her feel like a real scientist. She also enjoyed being able to educate children. "I never imagined they could be so smart," she says. "Sometimes they asked questions I found difficult to answer."

Kurmanbekova says she is interested in studying abroad again and would like to come back to Wayne State. In the meantime, she hopes to remain in contact with her new friends that she has met during this study opportunity.

"Life in the U.S. has changed my view of the world," says Kurmanbekova. "I would definitely recommend studying abroad. Programs like this offer so many opportunities and make travelling easier. I appreciate the time spent with my friends and professors. Ideas, thoughts, funny stories which they share will forever remain in my memory, this is the piece of America that I would like to take back with me."

If you are interested in studying abroad, check out the list of classes and program Study Abroad offers here.

By Jacob Stocking, OIP communications associate.

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State's global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university's global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.

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