LA JUNTA — Close to 30 international students are attending Otero Junior College this fall, including four students who have come to the college through unique international exchange programs.
According to Rochelle Wallace, director of the OJC International Program, three of the students are scholars through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program. One is part of the Global UGRAD Eurasia/Central Asia program and two are part of the Global UGRAD-Pakistan program.
“OJC has hosted scholars from the UGRAD program for almost 10 years,” said Wallace. “These students go through a rigorous competitive screening process for the honor of studying at an American college. We are always very excited to host these students because they are the best of the best from their countries,” she said.
Wallace explained that the fourth exchange scholar attending OJC was selected from the Cultural Vistas Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals.
“This is the first time OJC has hosted a scholar from the CBYX program, and we are honored to have been chosen as one of the American colleges to host one of the program’s outstanding scholars,” said Wallace.
The four exchange scholars attending OJC this fall include: Tobias Koecher, Germany; Aleksei Semes, Russia, and Imran Karim and Rubina Shah, Pakistan.
Tobias Koecher, 19, from Werther, Germany comes to OJC through the Cultural Vistas Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals. Through this competitive scholarship, funded by the U.S. and German governments, 75 German participants are personally selected by representatives of the German Bundestag (parliament) and placed throughout the United States for a program consisting of study, work and living in an American home.
Koecher is a graduate from Vocational College in Sondershausen, Germany with professional qualification as clerk in public administration and university of applied sciences entrance qualifications.
While growing up, Koecher was a leader of the youth section of the Volunteer Fire Brigade in Kleinwether, Germany and was a volunteer community worker for youth affairs in his hometown of Werther.
As a student at OJC, Koecher is currently serving as the vice president of the OJC Alpine Club and co-leader of IRO Athletics that includes intramural volleyball and dodge-ball. He said he enjoys listening and play music; that includes playing the drums, collecting coins, riding bikes, talking politics and meeting new friends
Aleksei Semes, 19, is from Russia. He has come to OJC through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (UGRAD) Eurasia/Central Asia program. Students chosen to participate in the program are from the 12 countries of the former Soviet Union.
This is a yearlong program that aims to advance youth leadership and promote mutual understanding by providing the opportunity to study for one year in the United States.
Semes is currently pursuing his bachelor degree in business at Tomsk Polytechnic University. During spring semester at OJC he will have the opportunity to gain some experience by working at an internship in the field of business in La Junta.
As a student in Russia, Semes was named an All-Russian Championship Volleyball player. He received Mr. Creative Award at the Psychology of Communication competition and participated in the literary-musical club in 2010.
While a student at OJC, Semes has been the co-leader of IRO Athletics that includes intramural volleyball and dodge-ball.
He enjoys all kinds of sports, but is particularly good at volleyball. He also enjoys concerts, movies and games with friends. He said he hopes to create some interest in men’s volleyball while at OJC because when he returns to Russia his coach is going to be expecting him to be at the top of his game.
Imran Karim and Rubina Shah, both from Pakistan are also scholars of the UGRAD program, only they come to OJC through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan (Global UGRAD-Pakistan) program.
Instead of being able to stay at OJC for a full academic year like Aleksei Semes, Karim and Shah will only be at OJC for one semester. The program encourages participants to develop a broad understanding of U.S. values and become citizen ambassadors who support expanded diplomatic and development partnerships upon their return to Pakistan.
In addition to their academic studies, their programs require them to engage in community service and to interact with various parts of American community life. Through these interactions, the students develop a more well-rounded perception of American culture. They go on to share this understanding of the U.S. with friends, family, and others in their communities back home.
Rubina Shah, 23, is from Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. She is currently studying ophthalmology at Kind Edward Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan
While growing up, she was named the best student and head girl of the Student Council at Prelude Public School. She served as a guide with Pakistan Girls Guide Association and has attended the Annual Scientific Symposium and 33rd Ophthalmological Society of Pakistan workshops.
While a student at OJC, Shah is serving as the chairperson for the annual IRO Talent Show committee. She enjoys sketching, reading, acting, cooking, teaching, handcrafts and dancing. She said her favorite food at OJC is pizza, something she could eat every day, at every meal, if she could.
Imran Karim, 20, is from Hyderabad Hunza, Pakistan. He is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in business at Federal Urdu University Karachi.
While growing up, he served as a Boy Scout in the Ismaili Boy Scouts for 10 years and received the “Talented Student Award” from the Aga Khan University Examination Board in July, 2009. He was also a member of the Sheraz Cricket Team and served as the team’s captain.
Karim said his goals is to own his own business where he can help his country by providing good services, good products and create jobs and promote business development initiatives in his hometown of Hyderabad Hunza, which is located in the extreme northern part of Pakistan.
Chellie Wallace explains that all the programs are opportunities for the students to serve as “ambassadors” to their home country.
“As international students at OJC, their unique perspectives and backgrounds enrich the learning experience for American students in the classroom. In addition, they will be sharing some of their culture through the interactions with the community, the Friendly Family program and more formally by giving presentations about their home country and culture,” said Wallace.
On November 13, Imran Karim and Rubina Shah will be featured speakers at the International Relations Lunch & Learn program where they will present a program about their country of Pakistan. The program will be held at 12:15 – 12:50 p.m. in the ASG Conference room of the Student Center; the public is invited to attend. Lunch is not provided, but those going are encouraged to bring their lunch.
The Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan and the program in Central Asia are both programs of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State and are administered by the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX).
Photo Caption: Four students are attending OJC this fall through unique international cultural exchange programs. Students pictured with OJC President Jim Rizzuto (on left) include (l-r): Tobias Koecher, Germany; Rubina Shah, Pakistan; Imran Karim, Pakistan and Aleksei Semes, Russia.
Koecher and Semes will be at OJC for a full academic year while Shah and Karim will be returning to Pakistan at the end of fall semester.