Shaher Bano was lost on campus her first day at College of Coastal Georgia.
An exchange student from Pakistan, Bano needed to find Connie Toler, an employee in the college’s International Education office. She asked a stranger for help.
“She actually stayed with me for half an hour and helped me find Connie … she stayed with me until I met Connie,” Bano said. “… It really kind of impressed me how people are so friendly.”
Bano is among three Pakistani students who will soon be leaving CCGA after a semester living and studying on campus through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program.
The program sends about 100 students per semester to universities across America, allowing the students to immerse themselves in the culture of an American university and grow as students and young adults.
“It’s a good opportunity to see and explore the culture, and there’s a lot of differences in the education system,” said Anoshi Bai, one of the exchange students at CCGA. “And I’d never been to any other countries.”
CCGA has participated in the program for several years and has hosted 12 Pakistani exchange students on its Brunswick campus since 2015.
The program is part of a broader U.S. State Department effort to promote a better understanding of the United States abroad, particularly among future world leaders, said Jim Lynch, interim director of international education at the college.
“By interacting with Americans through community service work and on-campus engagement over the course of the last four months, our Pakistani exchange students were able to develop a better understanding of U.S. culture and values, and in the process, expand our students’ understanding and consideration of diverse points of view and open-mindedness about other cultures and experiences,” Lynch said.
The students attended CCGA classes, lived in the residence halls and involved themselves in campus activities.
“The main purpose of this is to enhance your leadership skills and for us to gain real knowledge on how people use leadership skills in America and how they use leadership to motivate people here and how we can apply it to Pakistan when we go back,” said Ramiah Adeen, one of the exchange students.
They also participated in community service projects at the college, as well as with the environmental nonprofit Keep Golden Isles Beautiful and affordable housing group Habitat for Humanity.
Adeen said the program allows students, both Pakistani and American, to meet new people and learn about new cultures.
“It allows you to share stories,” she said. “While I’ve been here, I’ve told all my American friends stories from Pakistan.”
Many people believe negative stereotypes of other counties, she said, and exchange programs like this can help dispel those false understandings.
“It allows us to bridge any differences or any perception that you might have about other cultures,” she said.
Bano said she grew from her experience studying at CCGA for a semester.
“It’s just not like visiting,” she said. “Here, we lived American life.”