Each year, a number of international students choose to study at Shenandoah University. They bring their dreams and talents and share rich, cultural knowledge that resonates across the academic and social experiences of the entire community.
Uzbekistan native Leyla Feyzulayeva, a rising sophomore violin performance major, smiles easily and often. An adventurous and curious person, she wanted to study music in the United States to meet new people and gain new experiences.
“I love to travel,” she said. “I lived in my country for 18 years. I wanted to meet new people, and I had more to say through my music. Violin is such a challenging instrument. I’ve been playing it since I was seven years old, but you just can’t spend too much time learning it.”
After graduating high school in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Feyzulayeva spent a year at Interlochen High School in Michigan, where she studied violin and took classes in English, orchestra, chamber music and harmony.
“I finished school in my country, but I had the opportunity to study at Interlochen,” said Feyzulayeva. “While there, I applied for colleges. My chamber music teacher knew Professor Akemi Takayama, and I heard her play on YouTube. She’s such a great teacher and musician. I’m so happy to study with her right now. That’s actually one of the main reasons I’m here at Shenandoah. But I honestly love everything here. I think it’s the best place for me.”
Seeking the ‘American Dream’
For Graduate Admissions Counselor Abdel Hafid Elidrissi, an MBA student from Morocco, the “American dream” drew him to United States. While in college, he applied for the Green Card lottery, a Visa program, and he won it.
“It was a dream,” he said, “and now it’s a reality. Today, I am pursing that dream. When I graduate, I will receive my MBA and my U.S. citizenship.”
Elidrissi said a difference between American higher education and his college experience in Morocco is the interactivity between students and faculty.
“In Morocco, the faculty consider themselves the source of knowledge and truth,” he said. “They present the information, and we have to take it as it is. We don’t discuss it. Here at Shenandoah, the faculty are very interactive. They are knowledgeable and open-minded to new ideas and opinions. We talk about themes and topics. We talk about points of view. We can give and take.
“A lot of my classmates ask me about [life in Morocco]. The image they have is that we live in the desert and have camels. It’s not true. We have the progress you have here, but it’s just a little bit different, in the sense that you are more developed than us. The lifestyles are a bit different. But at the end of the day, we’re all the same. We’re working for the same goals: to establish a family, to raise our kids and pursue happiness…as it’s written in the U.S. Constitution. Where I’m from, we love life and we enjoy the kind of fun you guys do here, like hospitality, food and cultural events. All the things that you are proud of in America, we have them at home. It’s just different. We live them differently.”
Crossing Cultural Borders
Former U.S. Marine Chuck Tippet from Warrenton, Va., and his roommate Bojiang “Steven” Liu met for the first time in the room they share in the Edwards Residence Hall in December 2012.
At 26, Tippet finished a tour of duty in Afghanistan in May 2011, then spent the summer taking classes at Lord Fairfax Community College before transferring to Shenandoah to study criminal justice. He was asked if he had a roommate preference; he didn’t. When he learned he could room with a Chinese MBA student, he welcomed the opportunity.
“I’ve been pretty much everywhere in the world but China,” he said. “I’ve been to Spain, Africa, Israel, Australia, Japan and Vietnam. I thought it would be interesting to get to know someone who has lived in a country where I’d never been.”
When Liu arrived in Winchester from Bejing, China, he felt nervous and out of place. Winchester was a very different place from the frenetic, urban Beijing. He didn’t know anyone on campus yet, and while he could read English, he still had a hard time speaking it.
“The first night I came here, I didn’t know my friend Chuck,” said Liu. “I didn’t know any other Chinese students. I was very nervous. I went back to the room, and Chuck was there. He was very relaxed.”
Since that first day, the two have become good friends. They learned how to communicate with each other and often banter back and forth. Tippet, who has a car, helps drive Liu to places he needs to go. Liu has also met friends on campus, including several Chinese students.
Liu was attracted to Shenandoah’s business school because of its AACSB International accreditation status.
Learning to speak English continues to be a challenge, but this summer Liu is taking English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at Shenandoah. When he earns his MBA, he plans to go into business. “Maybe I will work at a communications company. I might go back and work at AT&T in China, for example,” he said.
Tippet hopes to work in law enforcement. “When I first joined the Marines, my contract was to work in a presidential detail,” he said. “I eventually wound up in embassy work all around the world.”
Both Tippet and Liu enjoy their cultural differences and the opportunity
to keep learning from one another.