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Celebrating our Global Graduates

While we are not able to celebrate with all of our graduates the way we normally would, the Office of Global Engagement wishes to congratulate the Class of 2020! These are unusual circumstances surrounding their last semester, but they don’t diminish the hard work our students have put in and all they’ve accomplished over the years.

Global Citizens and Graduates

Our graduates also took this opportunity to reflect on the journey they underwent during their time at NC State and how their experiences shaped them to become global citizens, ready to think and do on a global scale.

Halle Michalak, B.S. Business Administration

During my time at NC State, I was fortunate enough to spend a semester abroad, work at the Intensive English Program, and serve as a global ambassador. My involvement with the Office of Global Engagement produced many highlights of my undergrad experience.

I spent a semester studying business and German language in Germany as part of an international exchange program alongside students and faculty representing more than 90 different countries. My positive experience empowered me to get involved and promote global diversity and engagement when I returned to my home campus. I started working with international students with the Intensive English Program and joined the global ambassadors. Through these positions, I interacted with students from many different countries and cultures.

I became passionate about making our campus more welcoming to international students while also creating opportunities for NC State students to have international or intercultural experiences without leaving campus. As a global citizen, I will continue to let these passions motivate me to consider the greater community and apply global perspectives to all my future experiences.

Ramkumaar (“Ram”) Kovil Kanthadai, M.S. Computer Science

This past February, I noticed an email from OIS and registered for the Alternative Intercultural Service Break trip to Black Mountain, NC on the last day. It was one of the best decisions I made in the past 2 years I spent here. I enjoyed making new friends, trying to be helpful in a small way to the local community, and also meeting new different people throughout the whole week. It is only when we see the harsh realities in life that we remember how privileged we are. That trip provided me some perspective and helped set a few tiny goals on that path. And best of all, it was FUN.

To my fellow students: I would say to try new things, things that you wouldn’t normally do or haven’t done yet. The experiences I had were new, unexpected, and helped me walk a slightly different path than my normal one. I believe it was for the better. So, my suggestion would be to try a new club/activity or even a different road home and find some unexpected things about this vast world and our own self. 

There’s a saying in my mother tongue Tamil: “Yaadhum oore yaavarum kaelir” which loosely translates to “every place is home and every one our friends” and I’m looking forward to discovering new homes and a bigger set of friends and family.

Morgan Gunter, B.S. Textile Engineering – Product Engineering

Before studying abroad in Australia, I had never even left the East Coast. Every aspect of traveling was entirely new to me. However, I soon grew more comfortable in navigating my way through new cities, feeling confident in exploring different places, and meeting new people. This spring break, I was also able to visit London, England with a fellow student in my major. We explored textiles and fashion in the city, as well as everything else it had to offer. Having been two years since I studied abroad, this trip rejuvenated my passion for traveling. During both of my trips, I felt like I was living NC State’s slogan, “Think and Do.” Observing and understanding the new cultures around me, and doing my best to fully immerse myself in them.

During the rest of my time at NC State, I was a part of Pack Abroad Ambassadors, an organization dedicated to encouraging other students to study abroad and connect with international students on campus. The club has allowed me to share my love for international exploration, discussing my past experiences and how they changed the person I am today.

All the traveling I’ve done plus the connections I’ve made with students on campus have molded me into a global citizen. I believe this term means gathering your own personal experiences, understanding and appreciating the various cultures you encounter, and using that knowledge to better understand how your own culture is intertwined with them. I look forward to the day when I can continue traveling, but for now, I appreciate the experiences NC State gave me and will move forward with the knowledge I gathered from them.

Oscar Mejia Barahona, B.S. Nutrition Science

I will forever be grateful for NC State for the opportunities I have received and the friends I made. Coming into a university as a first-generation American and college student is a scary endeavor at first, but as time went on it became my home away from home. Growing up I had to learn the norms of the United States and because of Multicultural Student Affairs and other wonderful resources, it helped me connect with other minorities of different backgrounds. Although our cultures are different, we are like puzzle pieces as there’s always something that connects us. 

NC State helped me realize that my college experience is not limited only to the NC State campus, so it gave me that extra courage to study abroad for a whole semester in Florence. 

Through that, I was able to immerse myself in a culture that I never expected to visit during my college years. I then helped the Study Abroad office as a Global Diversity Advocate. With the experience I gained throughout my four years at NC State will better prepare me for the healthcare field to better understand those of different backgrounds than me.

Rosemary Pruneau, B.S. Microbiology

My active involvement as a Small Pack International Graduate Student Orientation Leader with the Office of International Services (OIS) brought me connections with people from around the world right on campus, and lead me to further seek out opportunities to travel and meet people with various cultural backgrounds. I was able to have dinners with the students where they told me stories about their lives back home. I was also able to bring these students to events on campus where we enjoyed new activities related to sports, music, and other interests. My work with this program continued every semester since my sophomore year.

As a student pursuing a career in healthcare, I was able to find a dental brigade trip through NC State that enabled me to volunteer in Honduras during the summer before my junior year. This program allowed me to network with other NC State students in my field, and it was an unparalleled learning experience that ignited my goal of doing dental work in underserved developing countries. This led to my participation in a study abroad program at the University of Oxford in England. I found that my education in England to be a time of cultural immersion and novel interactions, and it even incorporated a global perspective of my study of microbiology when we visited a village known as Eyam that was once a site of a plague epidemic.

During my senior year, I joined an Alternative Service Break to Philadelphia, where I learned about various world religions and grew my ability to have appropriate interfaith discussions. Overall, these college programs have led me to valuable mentors, life lessons, and a foundation of reverence for values around the world. The formation of this understanding is what I believe is my development as a global citizen. I’ve been able to “Think” these past years, and I am beyond ready to “Do” on a global scale.

I plan on attending dental school at UNC-Chapel Hill this fall, where I will go on to continue dental service work in other countries. I plan to receive an education that has an international perspective, with consideration for world health events so that I may be an effective health practitioner in my local area who also contributes to the progress of healthcare on a global scale.

Peet Chege, B.A. International Studies and B.S. Accounting

Coming into college with an intent to major in International Studies, building global acumen was at the top of my mind. I was excited about the interdisciplinary approach that the College of Humanities and Social Studies took as it gave me the flexibility to explore globalization. While my academic major gave me the theoretical knowledge, it is the on-campus activities and communities that have made me into a global citizen. 

Through the Office of Global Engagement, I have had the privilege to work with international students, serve as a global ambassador, attend cultural events (my favorite was the global film series), and one of the best experiences of my undergraduate career, studying abroad. The out-of-class global experiences I have garnered while at NC State have left me more prepared to go into this world. It was through the support of the Office of Global Engagement that I can recognize my impact on the world.

Keli Gerken, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

When I entered NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine, I had already studied large animal veterinary medicine in Belize. I was generally aware of the challenges the world was facing with food security and health inequality. These experiences were enriching, but I always wondered how I was going to get paid to “do what I love” as they say. In my first week at the CVM, I requested a meeting with Dr. Andy Stringer who would soon become instrumental in developing my global health career. I was eager, excited, and admittedly a little naïve. In that first meeting, he told me about the new global health certificate and I was hooked. I started attending every global health seminar I could in the Triangle area and leaned into the additional classes I had to take for the certificate.

In my first Summer of vet school, Dr. Stringer took a small group of students to Uganda to visit global health organizations, human hospitals, and meet with Ugandan veterinary students. I recall standing in the maternal health ward at a government hospital located over an hour down a bumpy dirt road, and I began to appreciate the complex challenges of poverty and health that I had learned about. It is easy to read about a challenge and immediately think of a quick response to overcome it, but when you are standing there and someone is explaining what they have to go through, those quick fixes don’t seem to hold up anymore. After the trip, I wasn’t ready to stop learning in that environment, so I carried on to Tanzania and was hosted by a Tanzanian animal welfare NGO.

My second Summer, I was to complete my research requirement for the certificate. What started as a good opportunity to learn more about small stakeholder dairy farming ended up turning into a love affair with Ethiopia and a life-enriching passion for the livestock livelihoods sector of global health. If I could use my veterinary degree to help poor livestock farmers achieve better health for themselves and their animals, that would be my version of “career satisfaction.” I would later return to Ethiopia twice more on my breaks from the primary DVM curriculum to continue my work with women dairy farmers. Just before graduation, I received an NIH funded Global Health Equity Scholars research fellowship to study Rift Valley Fever in Kenya. My mentor for the project is a pediatrician and expert in mosquito-borne virus epidemiology. I went from learning about the concept of One Health in a classroom to being the only veterinarian working on a diverse team to study an important zoonotic disease.  Four years ago, it was only a dream to work in global health as a veterinarian. I am ever grateful for the mentorship, guidance, and opportunity I have had at NC State to “think and do” what I needed to make my way in the global health arena.

Abdulmalik Almughairy, B.S. Chemical Engineering

“You will be an ambassador of Oman,” they said. “You must remember that you will be representing your country; you will no longer be just Abdulmalik when you get to the United States, so make sure to set a good example.” The words kept repeating themselves in my head, and I have been waiting for the day when I can transform those words into action.

Normally, emerging into a distinctly different culture is not easy, but NC State has managed to ease that for us. Our campus was the perfect environment to learn, share, interact, and, most importantly, represent. I came from across the globe filled with inspiration, faith, passion, and thoughts, and the only thing missing was some action. NC State has taught me to never hide a thought and to always put these thoughts into actions done. I was always encouraged to Think and Do.

Many cultural activities and global opportunities, as well as the establishment of the Omani Student Association at NC State, were just a few examples of the fruitful support we have been provided with. The moments I dedicated to introducing my history, sharing my culture, and representing my country have shaped some of the best memories I have had during my time at NC State. I am so thankful to have been provided with the opportunity to achieve my dream of being a representative and a true ambassador of Oman. Huge thanks to the Office of International Students and the Office of Global Engagement for their endless support and countless efforts. My time as a student on this campus might have come to an end, but I know that I will always be part of the Wolfpack family. I am proud to have served as an Omani ambassador at NC State, and I am ready now to become a proud ambassador of the Wolfpack to Oman.