State Department program invites WSU to Iraq for international conference

Fareed Shalhout and colleagues in Iraq
Fareed Shalhout (front row, left center) and
World Learning colleagues in Iraq

Thanks to an expanding collaboration with the Iraq Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) for Undergraduates, a four-week summer exchange sponsored and funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and implemented by World Learning, staff from the Office of International Programs (OIP) was invited to Iraq to attend an international conference reuniting over 80 former IYLEP students.

Fareed Y. Shalhout, associate director of student programs for OIP, has been the driving force behind IYLEP since it came to WSU in 2017. He recently led an IYLEP workshop in Washington, D.C., and received State Department approval to participate in World Learning’s IYLEP Alumni Conference in Erbil, Iraq.

While there, he reconnected with the students he worked with the past two summers and facilitated networking and dialogue sessions, as well as alumni project presentations.

“It was one of the most rewarding experiences to see students from the first day they arrived in Detroit, to where they ended up being where they are today,” Shalhout says. “The students also were able to explore the cultural aspect to Erbil, which is in northern Iraq, and many of the students from different regions have never explored that area before,” Shalhout says.

This was Shalhout’s first time in Iraq, and he says his experience mirrored the culture shock that many of the Iraqi students had when they visited Detroit.

“I really was able to get to know the cultural differences from just the breakfast, to the infrastructure, to the roads, to just the dialogue exchange between one another,” he says. “I really have molded our upcoming program from the experience that I had in Iraq during the 10 days that I was there.”

WSU previously hosted IYLEP orientation for students when they first arrived in the U.S. After becoming more acclimated to American life, they headed off in small groups to four universities across the country to focus on academic programs related to their majors. This year, orientation has moved to Washington, D.C., and WSU was selected to host an academic program for a group of 25 students. They will arrive July 13 and live in the residence halls and participate here until Aug. 1.

Shalhout says the program benefits both the Iraqi students and the WSU community.

“There are connections with those students that will last a lifetime,” says Shalhout. “They asked about our student ambassadors when I went to Iraq, they remembered them by name. We really value the IYLEP program, and we believe in the mission of the IYLEP program.”

OIP is seeking families to host IYLEP students for one or two weekends while they are here, to involve them in typical American family life and to show off the great state of Michigan. Shalhout says the hosting experience is an enriching opportunity for both the students and the host families.

“We are seeking families that are open-minded, adventurous, caring, enthusiastic, and reflect the very best aspects of our community,” Shalhout says.

Hosts are needed for July 19-21 and 26-28. While it is optimal for students to return to the same host for both weekends, volunteers can host a student for just one weekend. Host info forms and details about the requirements are online

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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