The Journey of Nadim Boukhdhir, a Tunisian Fulbright Scholar at Kent State
If you are reading this article, the first thing that you need to know is that I have been writing this for two years. It actually started once I was notified that I was awarded the prestigious Fulbright grant to study in the U.S. and that I was going to leave my family, my friends, the magnificent weather in Tunisia, and its tasty cuisine.
I was accepted to pursue a Master of Architecture at Kent State University, where I wanted to learn about the relationship between architecture and education, design and learning. My Fulbright journey started with a pre-academic program at Kansas State University. My first steps in the U.S. were in Manhattan, Kansas, also known as “The Little Apple.” Manhattan is a charming, heartwarming place where I was privileged to spend three weeks with 39 brilliant minds, coming from 31 countries and gathered through the Fulbright Scholarship. Despite our various languages and our different cultures, we shared classrooms, trips, meals, laughter, and even tears during our last day together.
Presentation in the U.S. on learning environments
Making a new home in the USA
Kent, Ohio, was my home for the next following year, or almost. It may seem weird that a strange place that you just picked after reading a few sentences online and saw in pictures from your computer screen in Tunis, Tunisia, suddenly becomes home. Kent was a home that I left a few weeks ago with great memories and nostalgic tears.
My life at Kent was a combination of discoveries, firsts, hard work, breaks, all-nighters, stress, and joy. Coming from a Mediterranean country, I would never forget how it felt to be around snow for the first time. Everything was white, the weather was freezing, and I was about to slip with every step I took.
A winter day in Ohio
Now that you know that I am not a huge fan of snow, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I learned that we had a study trip to Miami, Florida. Even though I had the chance to visit many major cities around the world (including Barcelona, Geneva, Istanbul, New York, and Boston), I would say that Miami simply stole my heart, especially a few days after the 2020 Super Bowl and on the day when I visited Pininfarina, one of the major design firms in the world.
Getting involved on campus
Kent State University not only provided a high-quality education, it also gave me the chance to be socially involved and to share my culture as a Tunisian and a North African. Being invited as a panelist to speak about my culture during the “Cross-cultural dating in the digital age” event was one of the main highlights of my Kent State experience. Hosted at the Center for International & Intercultural Education, I shared the floor with friends from Ghana, Indonesia, and the U.S., as we presented a variety of opinions to the attendees.
Panel discussion on campus
Cultural exchange is a key component of every Fulbrighter’s journey. I also had the honor to be part of one of the Fulbright Scholarship Board’s quarterly meetings. During this meeting, I had the privilege to meet Dr. Jeff Bleich, Chair of the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. Chatting about our Tunisian “Jebba” and “Chechia” was an amazing cross-cultural moment when people from all over the world got to learn about Tunisia.
Being a Kent State student during the pandemic
And then COVID-19 happened! During the first week of March 2020, we were notified that the college would be closed for 14 days and we would come back a few weeks later. Guess what? I never came back until my graduation on May 15th, 2021.
Plenty of space on the plane
After making the choice to fly back to Tunisia due to the pandemic, I found myself flying from Akron, Ohio, to New York City. I was the only passenger! It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once in Tunisia, I had to quarantine for 14 days. It was tough, especially with online courses, but I made it with the support of volunteers from the Tunisian Scouts and the Tunisian Red Crescent.
Despite the pandemic, a repatriation flight, a 14-day quarantine, a 6-hour time difference, and exams (some of which started at midnight and ended at 3AM), I made it and succeeded with a 3.77/4 GPA. Most importantly, I was awarded a research traveling fellowship from Kent State University in order to travel to Finland and continue my research about something I am passionate about, which is innovative learning approaches and educational strategies.
Finally, graduation day!
Some helpful advice, from one international student to another
I can keep writing about this journey, and the impact it triggered on me, forever. However, if there is one thing that I need you to keep in mind, it’s this: “During a journey, the more ‘firsts’ you have, the more fulfilling it gets.” Think about your first chat with your Uber driver, your first new key magnet, your first night alone in your apartment in a whole new city, your first course, your first new friend, your first burger, your first Mountain Dew … All of these are exciting experiences during what’s called “the honeymoon phase” in a foreign country. Then, when you start to get used to it, life starts to be a bit challenging and you start feeling homesick. That is when it is time to create new firsts — your first kayak, your first hike, your first trip, your first new meal, your first bike ride, your first national park visit, etc.
For those who made it to this point of the post, I would like to say that each and every one of us has his own unique path that will make him reach what he’s made for. And the challenges, the struggles and even the failures will make you learn more than success. My two final messages you can take away from reading this are: “Success is doing what you love and nothing less” and “Always be one step ahead, and never forget to run the extra mile.”
Check Out These Schools
Start your U.S. adventure with Study in the USA
Learn About U.S. education financing, housing, and more
BECOME SMARTER IN JUST 5 MINUTES. Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed and entertained, for free.
Choose an entire apartment, a studio, a shared room, or a private room, with 24x7 assistance from Personal Student Advisors. Book Now!
Summer plans suspended because of COVID-19? The deadline's approaching for TheInternGroup's virtual/remote global internship program. Gain professional experience, grow your network and make your resume shine from wherever you are this summer.
Study in the USA's Instagram introduced various colleges in the USA. They interviewed actual students on there, so it was helpful to know the real-life of an American college student.
I applied for University of Arizona, Wesley, from Study in USA, gave me all needed support.
Study in the USA helped me in many ways. Some include: helped me to know there are a lot of different opportunities in the USA, how to explore colleges and find a perfect one for myself, how to calculate fees...
Learn about American culture and education direct from our experts at Study in the USA. Read more