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Distinguished students from Bulgaria, Pakistan on campus

Barry McNamara
Syed Haroon Bin Farrakh and Adile Deliimam

In their native countries of Bulgaria and Pakistan, Adile Deliimam and Syed Haroon Bin Farrakh have been identified as future leaders. Through separate programs, that potential has brought the pair of distinguished international students to Monmouth College to learn about American culture and democracy.

Deliimam is part of the second group of Young Bulgarian Leaders (YBL) to study in the U.S., while Bin Farrakh is at Monmouth thanks to the U.S. Department of State’s Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan (Global UGRAD-Pakistan).

Run by the Institute of International Education, in association with the America for Bulgaria Foundation, the YBL program aims to identify Bulgarian students of exceptional caliber, as well as promising civil service professionals, and provide them with unique scholarship, entrepreneurship and leadership training in the U.S. Global UGRAD-Pakistan is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the Department of State and is administered by the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX).

“The Young Bulgarian Leaders program seeks to cultivate the future leadership of Bulgaria,” explained Bren Tooley, associate dean of academic affairs and director of MC’s grants program. “Bulgaria is a beautiful country, but some of its best and brightest students leave and don’t come back. This program helps counter that ‘brain drain.’”

Tooley serves as a bridge between the YBL and the college thanks to connections she formed two years ago as a Fulbright Scholar at Bulgaria’s University of Veliko Turnovo.

“Nora Popova was one of my most outstanding students, and the next academic year, she was here in the U.S. as part of the inaugural group of Young Bulgarian Leaders,” said Tooley. “(Recent MC exchange student) Presiana Yorgakieva is a dear friend of hers. Through Nora, we came to know about Young Bulgarian Leaders and the people who run it.”

Monmouth College applied to be a host institution for one of the 30 participants, and Tooley said the application was “happily and quickly accepted.”

Deliimam, who arrived last fall, said a study of the Civil War has been one of her favorite courses, in large part because it introduced her to Abraham Lincoln.

“Lincoln has become one of my idols, especially after reading the ‘Gettysburg Address,’” she said. “In his speech, he gives a hope, in the time when people started to lose their faith, of a ‘new birth of freedom,’ a freedom that would be achieved by sacrifice and death but would unite the nation again.”

Outside the classroom, Deliimam is enjoying a plethora of new experiences, from celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas for the first time, to meeting other international students and learning about their cultures, and from traveling throughout the U.S. to finding a new Saturday afternoon pastime,

“I got to watch for the first time American football and actually I became a big fan of the MC Fighting Scots football team,” she said.

“Programs like these enable young men and women from other cultures to experience democracy and take home with them the knowledge and friendships they gain,” concluded Tooley.

Tooley, who was also directly involved in bringing Bin Farrakh to Monmouth for the spring semester, says IREX officials are impressed by the college and have invited MC to apply to host IREX students through a number of programs – the Global UGRAD in Eurasia & Central Asia, the Kosovo-UGRAD program and the UGRAD-Pakistan program.

Tooley has spent time on campus with Bin Farrakh and calls him a “cultural ambassador” for Pakistan. She said the “thoughtful young man and fantastic student” has already succeeded in advancing a dialogue among students and faculty.

The highly competitive Global UGRAD-Pakistan aims to advance youth leadership and promote mutual understanding by providing U.S. higher education experiences to a diverse group of emerging student leaders from underrepresented sectors of Pakistan. In addition to their academic studies, Global UGRAD-Pakistan students perform community service and explore American traditions through the unique Cultural Passport to America program.

It’s clear to see that the programs are making the desired impacts on the young leaders.

“Through this experience, I had the chance to re-explore myself and set new goals and dreams in front of me,” Deliimam concluded. “Many people may believe that dreams are too unrealistic, but I believe that the dreams are half the way to the success.”