Span Blog

Fond Memories of UNI
By Ajay Abraham
| Category: Education

I came to the University of Northern Iowa three years ago on a cool summer day in August. I am a shy person and don’t do well around strangers; to be in a whole new country where I don’t know anyone and experience a totally new culture and speak a different language was very overwhelming. My only experience with the United States was what Hollywood showed me through the many movies I’ve watched; I was nervous. But what I experienced here in Iowa was something that I never expected. Iowa has one of the warmest and friendliest people I have ever met in the world.


I still remember the gentleman who sat next to me on the flight who was from Cedar Falls, where the school is located in Iowa. He recognized the nervousness in my eyes and assured me that I would love the city. He was in fact the first American I ever spoke to, and it was comforting when he told me that it was an honor that his city had students from all over the world studying there. The first thing that you notice about the people in Cedar Falls is how polite and welcoming they are.


When I first started looking into different opportunities to study in the US, I was overwhelmed because the procedure was different than what I was used to and some of the terms in the application forms were different as well. I sent emails to quite a few Universities explaining my situation and inquiring about the possible opportunities I would have there. I felt the warmth from the personalized emails and assistance I received from UNI’s Admissions Office. They pretty much guided me throughout the entire process to successfully come to the US. The staff had explained to me step by step that after I’ve submitted my application as a transfer student, I would have to send my transcripts from my previous educational institutions. They were very flexible with me because they understood there would be some delay in obtaining the transcripts from my High school and College. Once the transcripts were sent, and I was officially admitted to UNI, I got my Admissions package, along with my I-20. I had scheduled my interview with the US Consulate in New Delhi, and obtained my visa to study in the United States. UNI always stayed in touch with me throughout the entire process, keeping track of my progress. This personalized communication and warmth, as well as UNI having one of the best Accounting programs in the United States, made me decide to choose UNI over other universities.  I also felt welcome when I first arrived and I was contacted by other current international students who understood the situation I was in and offered to assist.  A student organization, the International Student Association, even help organize pre-orientation events that help new students who arrived early to settle in and not feel homesick. By the end of Orientation, I felt like I already belonged here.


If you do ever miss home, the city also offers two Indian restaurants and an international store to buy spices so you can share your food with others. This is a great way to bond with people and share some of your culture.  Doing this and participating in other cultural activities on campus, made me realize how unique I was and how people are really interested to find out about life is in our countries and learn about our traditions.  A lot of things that we take for granted about ourselves have so much value here. I have never felt homesick because of the warmth and friendliness I experience here. People here do a really good job to make you feel special, and I have become accustomed to their warmth. They are appreciative of who you are and what you have to offer.


I have come a long way forward than the shy person I used to be three years ago. UNI has taught me how to best use the opportunities that I had in front of me. I am currently the vice president of the International Students Association and am recognized as a student leader among staff and other students. I coordinate with various departments on campus and host events to encourage diversity and promote cultures from different countries.  Although I’m graduating this May, I will be working closely with my family at UNI and sharing my experiences.