by Ijlal (Jilly) Ahmed Niazi
This is the second installment of two blogs authored by some of our visiting international honors students. Because of their academic excellence, these students’ study abroad experiences at Minnesota State University, Mankato have been sponsored by a variety of American or international agencies. We invite a select number of them to participate in our Honors Program while they are enrolled at Minnesota State Mankato. While here, the students can enroll in honors courses and participate in any number of honors activities. Doing so is a great way to meet other Americans and to get involved in the community at a deeper level than might otherwise have been possible. In these blogs, Yusra and Jilly reflect powerfully on their experiences in and outside of the classroom. It has been a joy to have them as part of our community, even if for a short while.
-Christopher Corley, Honors Program Director
I have found studying abroad to be one of the best ways to enhance my experience. I was pretty excited when I was selected for the cultural exchange program to spend one semester in the United States. I did not know which school I was going to attend because it was my sponsor’s decision. After a lot of waiting, I found myself here at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I was already prepared for a fun semester but another surprise was in store for me.
At the orientation, I was told that I was one of the students who had been selected to join the Honors Program during my stay. One of the courses the Program offered, Honors American Indian Leaders, was the main reason I accepted the invitation. I have always been interested in Native American history so I was excited for the opportunity to take this course through my enrollment in the Honors Program.
My semester-long experience is coming to a close, but I have really enjoyed being a part of this wonderful group. I have met a lot of new people, including my classmates in Honors American Indian Leaders, and Professor Rhonda Dass. Together we have learned so much about American Indian leadership and culture from Dr. Dass and enjoyed the unique layout of this course. We often meet outside of the classroom at various restaurants for class, and the majority of our time together is based on class discussion. The environment in the class is entirely different from any I have ever experienced in my own country, Pakistan.
By being a part of this program, I have had the opportunity to attend events that I might never get the chance to attend again. In my honors course, Dr. Dass encouraged me to attend the annual Pow-Wow held at the Land of Memories Park here in Mankato. I got a first-hand experience of Native American culture by attending the Pow-Wow that commemorated the 38 plus two Native Americans who were publicly executed during the US-Dakota War. Another cultural event I was able to attend through my honors course was American Indian Night put on by the University’s American Indian Student Association (AISA). My classmates and I also organized and hosted a dinner for the student leaders of AISA. These were wonderful opportunities to grow culturally and meet new people.
Being a part of the Honors Program has been a wonderful experience. It has changed my perspective on a lot of things. It has given me the opportunity to interact with people from a different culture and allowed me to look at the world from a different perspective. I am really lucky to have been a part of this program, and I am very thankful to MNSU and my sponsors for this opportunity. I will surely miss all of this.