International, out-of-state students feel at home
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
Saleh Abdeen was in between smiles and tears.
After living in America for only a month, his first impression of Grand Canyon University was overwhelming.
“People here are nice, very open-minded and welcoming – that’s really interesting to me,” said Abdeen, who arrived from Jerusalem. “Coming here wasn’t an easy decision, especially because in my culture and tradition, family is everything.”
The youngest of nine said coming to GCU is an opportunity to experience a different culture and religion while finally getting to learn at “the great university” people from all over the world would tell him about when they visited the Holy Land.
“I applied at different universities in the Unites States, but after doing my own research I still felt more connected to GCU – I still feel good about my decision,” said Abdeen. “I am on a journey and I am trying to figure out who I am. That journey is both an adventure and a risk.”
With a number of social activities this week and a welcoming celebration in Thunderground on Tuesday, Abdeen was among hundreds of international and out-of-state students kicking off their new academic and personal journeys at GCU.
The high-spirited social gathering, organized by the Associated Students at GCU, was filled with smiles, laughter, hugs, refreshments and an abundance of activities. Some sat down to play a game of cards while others chatted, bowled or played pool.
Gabi Lee, Internal Affairs Coordinator for ASGCU, said creating cultural awareness and community are some of the key goals of the student senate, and the event allowed students to make connections.
“We have people from Belgium, Jerusalem, England … the fact that all of these students are here is a really great start for them,” she said. “They already know that they can get involved on campus, and for some that’s just a couple of hours after arriving to campus because that’s how eager and excited they are to be here.”
Tiffany Koontz was able to tap into a circle of Washingtonians, explaining that it happened almost naturally.
“We immediately saw each other and asked, ‘Washington?’ and they said, ‘Yeah, Washington!’ It was that easy.”
Normi Carrillo came from California with her friend Eva Martinez. It was during a game of pool that they realized the rapid changes in all aspects of their lives – including from where they shopped to where they got their eyebrows done.
“Have you found a place to get your eyebrows done out here?” said Carillo.
“I’ve only been here for two days!” said Martinez.
Later, she laughed and confessed that nice eyebrows were a priority.
Keiria White, a nursing student from Chicago, also found it easy to make new friends. During a game of Giant Jenga, she posed for a photo and added her new friends on Snapchat.
White acknowledged, “It’s the thing to do after you make a connection. Plus you can see what they are up to or where they are at on campus.”
White said the most exciting part of her experience has been finding many others from Chicago.
“It’s like I never left home,” she said.
When asked why she chose to pursue her education at the University, White said, “Ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a doctor, but as I got older I learned the importance of nurses. Every good doctor needs a good nurse behind him or her. I want to be that nurse, and I knew I could come to GCU to become that nurse.”
For others, the excitement went beyond GCU’s academics.
Martinez said she couldn’t wait for Friday’s “Party Like It’s 1999” event. “We are the last kids of the ’90s – that’s a pretty big deal.”
Denzel Siler from North Carolina made it clear it was all about the noise around campus and even howled to express his excitement.
“I love the Havocs. I love GCU. It’s just completely awesome!” he said. “Basketball season is coming up very soon, and you bet I will be at every game painted up no matter what.”
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or [email protected]