Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Leadership lived: UIS student helps international students feel at home

Zehra Özkan Shahidi, a senior communication major, is working to bring an international perspective to the University of Illinois Springfield. The Turkish native hopes by educating the UIS community about other parts of the world she can make a difference.

“If they can understand our culture it will be more helpful to everyone,” said Shahidi.

Shahidi is the president of the International Student Association at UIS. The association is made up of students from India, Russia, Turkey, China, Japan, and other parts of the world.

She regularly organizes social events for international students, often hosting them at her home. Shahidi also volunteers at events, such as the International Student Festival, which brings members of Springfield community to UIS to learn about other cultures each year.

“We have really good opportunities at UIS and I’m so proud to say that I’m one of the students at UIS, that I’m one of those leaders,” said Shahidi.

Shahidi is also organizing a conversational language program, which will be offered free of charge to all members of the UIS community. The program will give students, faculty, and staff a chance to learn other languages from native speakers.

Following graduation from UIS, she plans to remain on campus and pursue her master’s degree in Liberal and Integrative Studies. She is grateful for the abundance of opportunities that UIS has offered her as an international student in a supportive community.

“Leadership is really important for us. You can get good experience for your future. You can use all of those experiences and good relationships,” said Shahidi.

Shahidi values the time she spends helping other international students.

“Our relationship is kind of more family based,” she said.

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