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 Crossing Cultures

(From left): Melissa Estrada from Columbia, Chike Uduku from Nigeria, Andrei Diuchin from Moldova, Shiraz Zaidi from Pakistan, Prabhat Bhattarai from Nepal, and Yang Wang from China stand on the map of the earth located on the first floor of Heller Hall.

International Students Bring Cultural Diversity to UMD

Each year, UMD welcomes exchange students from all over the world. In the 2009-2010 school year, 246 students from nearly 40 countries were enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs at UMD. Though the adjustment may be hard, the International Student Services (ISS) strives to make the transition an easy one. These students gain friendships, work skills, and memorable experiences by coming to UMD. Four graduating international students shared some of their experiences at UMD.

Developing Skills: Prabhat Bhattarai, Nepal

Prabhat Bhattarai came to the UMD two years ago from Nepal to receive his Master’s Degree in physics. "Nepal and Duluth have very different cultures," said Prabhat. He said other than the weather, there are many differences. “The following are not in my country: credit card culture—the use of a card in every business, web culture—use of internet for most businesses, car culture—use of a car for even the shortest distances, and the work culture—here any work can be done irrespective to academic degree and status. It is the best culture of Duluth.”

UMD has given Prabhat the opportunity to accomplish his dreams. One professor has helped him by making students learn in a nuanced way. “In the past 16 years, I was never involved in study in the way I was involved in physics Professor John Hiller's class at UMD. On the first day of class, he lectured just 10 minutes. Then he made us work on the board not only throughout the class hour, but an additional several minutes. He did the same in every class I took,” Prabhat said. “At first I questioned, what did he teach? But as the days passed, I started to realize that he taught a lot. Actually, he didn't teach, but made us learn by doing it ourselves. This gave me a lot of confidence in the subject. I acknowledge and appreciate his method of making us learn.”

Prabhat says that he will miss UMD, especially observing the social behavior of some people and how UMD gave him the ability to learn from others. After graduating from UMD, Prabhat will go on to join the University of Texas, Austin for his Ph.D. in Physics. “UMD has been a very nice bridge to help me meet my dream,” Prabhat said.

Building Friendships: Andrei Diuchin, Moldova

Andrei Diuchin came to UMD from Moldova to receive his undergraduate degree in Financial Markets Finance and German Studies. After four years of attending UMD, he will graduate this May. He heard about UMD through a couple of former students from his high school. And after studying here, Andrei said that he would definitely recommend UMD to anyone.

When Andrei first came to UMD, the language barrier was the hardest adjustment. “I didn’t have exposure with speaking in English at first,” Andrei said.

Andrei has enjoyed working under the guidance of finance Professor Joseph Artim. “The Financial Marketing Finances degree gives you an unbelievable opportunity to get first-hand experience from professionals in the financial industry. Joseph Artim is helpful in just about anything. You can pretty much learn from him and apply it right away,” Andrei said.

There are many differences between the culture at UMD and the culture in Moldova. One difference that Andrei noted was food. “Europe is not really concentrated on fast food, it’s more home cooking,” Andrei said. But UMD has offered Andrei many positive experiences, including the friendships he’s made and his experience as a Resident Advisor.

With his degree, Andrei hopes to get a job as a portfolio manager or a trader in any city or country, but leaving UMD will be bittersweet. “I will miss my friends. I’m pretty sure I won’t spend all my life in Minnesota so it’ll be hard to see the people I know after I graduate,” Andrei said.

Finding a Passion: Yang Wang, China

Yang Wang first came to Duluth four years ago when she got a scholarship to attend UMD to study accounting. Yang was excited to attend because her hometown in northeast China has a similar climate and weather to Duluth, and she likes snow. She was also excited because of the excellent International Education program UMD offers students from around the world. “I like this program. If UMD didn’t have this program, I would not have studied here,” Yang said.

At first, the language barrier was difficult for Yang, and she just wished everyone would speak Chinese. However, professors like Randy Skalberg helped her stay on track and to keep working. “Every time I asked him questions after class, he was very patient to tell me the answer and show me the logic behind that. I had language issues, so sometimes I did not quite understand, and so he tried different ways to teach me. I really appreciated that,” Yang said.

One positive memory Yang had at UMD was participating in the Life Skills Center for Leadership Program. “I was voted as the ‘most improved person’ out of a group of 16 outstanding individuals who were selected from the entire junior and senior students at the Labovitz School of Business and Economics.” 

Although Yang’s hometown has a lot of snow, she never skied in China. “The first time I skied was at Spirit Mountain. That’s amazing. I liked the feeling of downhill skiing,” she said. Now Yang loves to ski and went on every International Club ski trip. 

One day Yang hopes to become an accountant in a public firm, but first she wants to get her Master’s degree. She said she is going to miss all the Minnesota-nice people and the fresh air.

Gaining Experience: Shiraz Zaidi, Pakistan

Shiraz Zaidi first came to Duluth three and a half years ago to study accounting and finance. Moving from his hometown, Karachi in Pakistan, Shiraz initially had trouble adjusting to the different lifestyle. “I never cooked for myself before I moved to Duluth,” he said. There are many differences between Shiraz’s hometown and Duluth, including weather, restaurants, and the beach, but the biggest difference is the population. “Karachi has an estimated population of over 15 million, according to 2010 statistics, and it is the most populous city in the world,” Shiraz said.

Despite these differences, Shiraz chose UMD because he felt it gave him the best option for an education and had great financial feasibility. The professors on campus have all given him great experiences, and he has enjoyed classes with every one of them, but one of Shiraz’s favorite memories comes from a recent class he took.

“In my Fraud Examination class, 15 IRS agents came up to UMD to teach us about fraud investigation. Besides presenting us with information on particular services that the IRS provides, we were given hands-on experience of conducting criminal investigation. I worked with the agents for over five hours on an investigative training case that involved surveillance, document search, and other investigation methods,” Shiraz said.

Shiraz feels that his greatest experience at UMD has come from the International Club. “That’s where I started my UMD experience. Karin Robbins, Trisha O’Keefe, Susan Gulland, and everyone else at the Multicultural Center has been very supportive to all the international students,” Shiraz said.

Once Shiraz graduates in May, he plans to pursue a career in accounting and finance, gain some certifications, work in the field and then go for his Master’s. He says his dream job is “one where I can be my own boss yet work with intellectuals who value ethics and strive for success.”

But he says that he will always miss UMD. “I feel nostalgic already! I will miss everyone that I got to know here: students, faculty, staff, people that I have taken classes with, hung out with, worked with... everyone,” Shiraz said.

About International Student Services

Written by Mandee Kuglin and Donna O'Neill

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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Last modified on 04/22/11 02:36 PM
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