Thursday, October 18, 2012

University of Montana

My name is Mushtaq Al Rashidany, a Fulbright alum from Iraq with a Master’s from the
Linguistics Program at the the University of Montana (2012). I went to the University of Montana through the highly competitive Fulbright Program, and I was placed at UM by the Fulbright Program based on my qualifications and interests. I was a little hesitant in the beginning when I first arrived at the university as it was the first time for me to be away from my family. Soon after though, I was surprised at how great this university is with its faculty, students, and friendly environment. The office of Foreign Student and Scholar Services which is in charge of the admission of foreign students at the university has a very friendly and helpful staff. They took  great care of me and did everything they could to help me engage actively in university life providing all kinds of support whenever I needed since my arrival. They helped me find proper housing and with registering for classes, and I never had trouble dealing with any issue on campus since they were always there for assistance. The Foreign Student and Scholar Services (FSSS) office has interesting programs for international students like the Missoula International Friendship Program where I was introduced, like every interested international student, to “a host family” from the Missoula community. The FSSS also gave me the opportunity to be matched with a friend (a local student on campus) through the unique Global Partners program.

I love the University of Montana because it is a multi-cultural and diverse community that makes no difference among its students regardless of their race, religion, and nationality. Everyone at this university enjoys the same rights. I admire UM students’ high manners, and the wonderful friends I met on campus made me feel like I was home. In fact people in Missoula, not just at the university, are very interested to know about other cultures and religions of the world, so they are excited to meet international students, which was clear to me on several social occasions. I was surprised at the many fun activities and field trips that were organized for international students throughout the semester--I did not have time to attend all of them. I also found many resources on campus to help students deal with difficulties in study, stress, and financial problems.

Although I struggled at the beginning in my studies, the amazing encouragement and support from my very friendly professors and colleagues helped me make my way through the two-year Master’s Program successfully by getting the highest grades! UM professors always encourage students to work together in doing their homework assignments and papers by sharing ideas.

The University of Montana offers many opportunities for international students to represent their home cultures. I was highly motivated by that to present a cultural talk about my country, Iraq, in my second semester during International Week, which is organized every year for international activities.  I appreciated the efforts of the International Programs department during this particular event. I also wrote “a comic play” in one of my classes, something I had never done before, which  is strong evidence that the academic and cultural environment of the university motivates students not just to be competitive in their studies, but also to  discover their hidden skills in other fields and to show their creativity. I don’t think I could find such opportunities and rich environments at any other university.

Having graduated from the University of Montana and having become a Fulbright alum, I’m planning to encourage students from my home town to apply for the prestigious Fulbright scholarship. This way they can experience the rich academic atmosphere of U.S. universities and get a chance to represent their culture and religion, and to use their knowledge to rebuild their country when they graduate.

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