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Eagle mentors international student from Africa


For most recently-graduated high schoolers, moving to a new city for  college is a yearly occurrence. It’s almost a rite of passage into adulthood.

Some students move to completely different countries.

They drop everything they know—their family, their friends and their possessions—in order to work and learn.

Either they come here to FGCU, or students from FGCU head over to many of the different countries the study abroad program offers.

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Usually the International Studies department, the people who help the students coming from other countries, provides international students with a mentor known as an Eagle I Ambassador. Tatiana Galdamez is an ambassador, and the girl she is mentoring Sonia Messaoudi, a student from Tunisia, Africa.

Members like Galdamez have found that working through International Services is a learning opportunity.

“They say if you travel somewhere for a week it broadens your perspective, but it does change as well when you talk to someone from a different country,” Galdamez said.

“Everything is new, everything is different from what I’m used to,” Messaoudi said. “Everyday seems like a new experience, so each time I wake up and think, ‘okay today is going to be a good day because I’m going to experience something new.’”

She went out of her way to pick Messaoudi up from the airport – something she wasn’t required to do –as well as took her out shopping for supplies she had to leave behind in Tunisia.

Galdamez is there to teach these students the ropes. If they have any questions about the school – or just about American life in general, she is there to answer them.

She makes sure their stay at FGCU is comfortable, being there as a mentor and a friend. Galdamez is not required to stay with her or follow her around everywhere, giving Messaoudi the ability to branch out herself.

Yet, coming to an entirely new country can have its challenges. Messaoudi has found the hardest part about being an international student is the people.

“I need sometimes to like, take time to think why someone acted this way, why they said this thing,” Messaoudi said.

For Galdamez the cultures are what tend to clash. For example, something Americans consider rude might not be to a person of a different culture. It’s about learning how to keep an open mind. Sometimes, it is not only the people or the cultures that can be hard for an international student, it’s also the application process.

Messaoudi mentions that she didn’t originally apply to FGCU. In her experience, the process included filling out an application, which their school would then put online as they wait for a university or college to choose them. She didn’t know much about FGCU, so when they accepted her, she had a month to learn more about the campus and the area.

Ted Michel, an international student from Haiti, had a different experience.

“I applied to the regular application, but, as an international student, I had to take the TOEFL (an English language test) because English is not my native language,” Michel said.

Messaoudi’s decision to come to FGCU was based on the idea that she was going to grow as a person. Messaoudi wants to experience things that other people in Tunisia haven’t before. She wants to use this experience as a way to advance her future career.

Luckily, she has someone like Galdamez by her side.

“You can see that she genuinely cares. Like the way she does her work you can tell she puts in a lot of effort and cares a lot about what she does,” Jonathon Rodriguez, one of her friends, said.

Messaoudi, and the other international students, also have the International Services here at FGCU helping along the way.

“The international Services had played a big role in my admission here at FGCU because they did the paperwork to help me transition to college life. They kept me updated, and they matched me with an Eagle I Ambassador,” Michel said.

With multiple events, study abroad opportunities and learning possibilities, International Services has managed to make FGCU bigger. They give students like Galdamez, Messaoudi and Michel opportunities they might have never had.

Students can visit their office in Reed 122 to discuss study abroad opportunities or how to become an Eagle I Ambassador.

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