Four Pakistani students part of State Department exchange program

By University Communications
May 6, 2015
Pakistani exchange students, from left Abdul Moeez, Ana Khattak, Kiranti Jairamani and Faryal Baig hold the Pakistani flag.

Photo: From left Abdul Moeez, Ana Khattak, Kiranti Jairamani and Faryal Baig

Four undergraduate exchange students from Pakistan are enjoying their first experience in the United States and at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

The students, their hometowns and majors in their home countries are:

  • Faryal Baig, Rawalpindi, telecommunication engineering
  • Kiranti Jairamani, Karachi, telecommunication engineering
  • Ana Khattak, Nowshera, economics
  • Abdul Moeez, Islamabad, engineering

The students, who received scholarships from the U.S. Department of State's Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan, arrived in January in Wisconsin.When asked about their first impressions, most of them said, "Cold!"

Baig said, "It's cold but people are so warm." Khattak conferred by adding that the people are "always willing to help."

The program provides one-semester scholarships to outstanding undergraduate students from underrepresented sectors in Pakistan for nondegree full-time study combined with community service, internships and cultural enrichment. The goal is to improve and promote cross-cultural understanding between the countries.

Learning about the program

Each of the students had a different story about how they heard of the program and ended up in Wisconsin for five months. They will leave May 15.

Moeez learned about the exchange program from a newspaper advertisement. "The selection process was difficult as they had to choose 240 scholars from a pool of approximately 6,400," he said.

Baig had applied once but was not accepted;she was encouraged to apply again by her cousin, who also applied but was not accepted. "We joke that I took his place," she said.Khattak was lucky, she said. She learned of the program only four days before the deadline and completed the application in one day.

Jairamani learned about the program through her university.

The students have one to two years left to complete their degrees in their home country. After that most of them plan on working to better their country in some way.Jairamani hopes to improve telecommunication by providing towers in her village. She is impressed at the high level of telecommunication in the U.S.

Moeez plans on starting an organization with three co-founders to improve education by training teachers. "A main problem in Pakistan is the quality of education," he said.Khattak hopes to go into policy making for her country. She wants to improve the "utilization of resources."

As a requirement of the exchange program, students take classes in American government and history. They also are learning about the culture with their host family and by traveling. During spring break in March, they went to Chicago, Nevada and California. They also have been to Washington, D.C.

Cultural differences

In Pakistan, people don't typically have dogs or cats as pets. When Baig and Jairamani held a puppy for the first time, they were terrified. "I was shaking," said Baig.When asked what the biggest adjustment and surprise was, the three females exclaimed, "the shower curtains!" In Pakistan, shower doors are typical, not curtains. So when the girls were faced with curtains, they were shocked. They stood guard outside the shower for each other and conferred with their parents, who advised them not to use the showers.Since their initial shock, they have gotten used to the idea, however.

Moeez is impressed with some aspects of life in the U.S. "There are more facilities and things are organized in a better way, but it seems to me life is hard too when I compare this from Pakistan," he said. "It's like daily-basis products are expensive, services are quite expensive and most of the students work while studying, which is not common practice in Pakistan, as the education is not that expensive."

The students have enjoyed presenting about Pakistan to the university and area community, where they have shared their food, dances, songs, clothing and artifacts.They gave their last cultural presentation April 22 for the Dunn County Homemakers Association.

Vickie Kuester, associate director of international education and international student adviser at UW-Stout, deems the program a solid success.