Indiana State University Newsroom

Pakistani student spends semester at Indiana State as cultural ambassador to U.S.

March 27, 2015

When at first you don't succeed, do as Shahina Bibi did - try and try again.

The second time Bibi, a 22-year-old from Pakistan, applied for a program to study for a semester in the U.S. she received a green light to come to Indiana State, where she began fulfilling her dream of studying in America in January.

Bibi was teaching high school when a cousin who was studying at another university told her about an opportunity for students to study in the U.S.

"He encouraged me to apply and soon after I applied I got accepted," She said. "I was excited because this is a developed country, educationally and economically, and I was very eager to see it all."

Bibi arrived at Indiana State in January and is one of 120 Pakistani students that came to the U.S. this semester through the State Department's Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan, which is a one semester program.

The program builds the capacity of a diverse group of youth leaders from underserved populations across Pakistan at U.S. universities.

Students receive U.S.-based training and practical experience in leadership positions, community engagement, and in their professional fields, undergraduate students gain the skills needed to implement long-term civic and economic changes in their communities, building stability through increased local capacity and cross-cultural understanding.

They also explore U.S. culture and are integrated into communities to help them develop a broad and nuanced understanding of U.S. values and become citizen ambassadors who support expanded diplomatic and development partnerships.

"When I came here there was a culture shock initially, but I adjusted with the help of an American friend I made," she said. "Whenever she was going to mall or anywhere, she would ask me to go with her and I did. Making friends with both American and international students and talking to people has helped.

"When I tell people I'm from Pakistan, they ask a lot of questions about my country and seem to have a lot of stereotypes about it. What I tell people is that if they come to Pakistan they would see a lot of hospitality. People will say hi to you, invite you to their home and ask what they can do for you. That is what you would see. Through the 120 students from Pakistan who are in the U.S. through my same program we can fight against stereotypes by educating people about our country."

Bibi stays in contact with people back home, including a friend she's persuading via Facebook to study in the U.S. and with her family, who is curious how she's doing as the first person in her family to come to America.

It's been a good experience so far, Bibi said, who's made friends with students from around the world - U.S, Korea, Nigeria, Congo, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia. She's already planning for ways to use what she's learned in her home country.

"In physics here, there is a helping center for students, where other students help them with their work if they need it, and I'm thinking how I can do this when I go back to my own university. I serve as a proctor at there, so it's my responsibility to see the problems of the students in my own class," she said. "I would also like to work on gender discrimination when I go back to Pakistan. I'm from a very remote area of Pakistan, so I would like to get meetings with women and try to ensure equality for women in my own community."

Bibi also is making an impact on the Terre Haute community through her involvement in a community service project at the Vigo County Library for international families and Lighthouse Mission, which are helping her to fulfill the 20-hour community service requirement for her exchange program.

"It has been a great opportunity for me," she said. "It is really amazing to see the presentations and students' experiences in the U.S."

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or