Imagine signing up for a scholarship on the last day of its deadline as a joke because all your friends did it too. Imagine forgetting about it, then one day, you get the call that you received it, and suddenly you find yourself 10,000 miles away from home, here at Keene State College.
This was a reality for Cultural Exchange Student from Fatima Jinnah Women’s University in Pakistan Zahra Syeda, who now studies graphic design at KSC.
“This was actually something that just fell into place. I came here on a scholarship,” Syeda said. “It’s actually funny because I wasn’t even that serious when I was filling out the form, I just said ‘Hey all my friends are doing it, I’ll do it too.’”
Syeda stayed with a host for just over a week at Math Center Testing Coordinator and Lecturer Allysha “Lisha” Hunter’s house, who has hosted other global students in the past.
“I know she is incredibly talented. She has shown us some of her work,” Hunter said. “My husband was an art major here, when we were students and it was really neat for us to see some of the things that she had done and for him to appreciate her work as a fellow artist.”
Hunter has three young daughters, aged 11, 10 and six, whom she asked a few weeks ago what surprises them about the exchange students who stay with their family. The younger ones are fascinated by the different languages and hairstyles they have seen and heard.
“My oldest daughter was really quiet for a moment and thought about it and her response was something like ‘people are people, there is nothing that has surprised me because they’re just people,’” Hunter said. “Zahra has been so open and so gracious about answering [their questions], but also asking then too because she wants to know what life is like for us.”
Although she came here as a graphic design student, Syeda said her heart lies with animation. Syeda received her scholarship to study graphic design at KSC before she officially chose her current major, animation.
“I am basically an animation major, but am studying graphic design here,” Syeda said. “It’s kind of cool, I am happy with it because it adds more dimension to my education. I see both of the different fields and get to study both of them this way.”
Although she misses her family and home, Syeda wouldn’t call herself “homesick” and says her family is generally excited for her.
“Yeah, they were just happy, like ‘You’re going away the house is going to be peaceful and quiet.’” Syeda said, laughing.
Syeda is excited to hopefully see snow, as she never has experienced it before.
Vice President of KSC Common Grounds Kate Chestna was introduced to Syeda through a chance encounter with Hunter.
“I am in the graphics department too, I am a graphic design major so we will see each other occasionally, she has classes right after I do,” Chestna said. “She’s very outgoing and funny.”
Chestna said that everyone in the graphics department knows and loves Syeda, and that she seems to be adjusting and enjoying her American experiences very well.
“If you see her on campus, strike up a conversation,” Chesta said about Syeda. “She loves to talk to new people.”
Meridith King can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org