As part of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan, Anis ’18 had no idea where he would be sent to study in the United States for the spring 2017 semester. Assigned to UNCW a mere two weeks before classes began, Anis had to register for classes, sign several travel documents, pack four months’ worth of possessions, research the Wilmington area, acquire plane tickets and attend UNCW’s foreign orientation. This whirlwind of responsibilities left him overwhelmed, but now he is finding his footing in the UNCW community. 

“I was literally just thrown into UNCW with no idea what was going on and no alumni support, because I’m the first one in my program to come here,” Anis said. “I’ve been overwhelmed with the response that people have given me and the amount of friendliness that’s here.” 

According to Anis, coming from one of the largest cities in the world to small-town Wilmington, North Carolina has been a major adjustment. Having heard Wilmington referred to as a city, Anis was shocked at its small population and the lack of typical, big-city hustle and bustle. Still, he is taking every advantage he can while in the United States. Many of his nights and weekends are spent either meeting other international students or traveling across the east coast to places like Greensboro, Washington D.C. and New York City. 

Anis felt very little culture shock because of his communication studies and engagement with popular culture and global media. He has taken full advantage of UNCW’s social and extracurricular activities, throwing himself into both music and photography. While in the United States, Anis is building the framework for a personal photography project. 

“The whole idea of photography is about showing the world what I see and how I see it,” said Anis. “I notice things that other people don’t. It’s just different ways of seeing, I think, and I really want to show that to others.” 

The UGRAD Pakistan program is an offshoot of the International Research & Exchanges Board, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a more inclusive world by empowering young leaders through education. UGRAD Pakistan specifically targets underserved populations in Pakistan through United States-based training and experience. UNCW applied and was approved to participate in the program for the first time in 2017 and Anis is the first UGRAD Pakistan student to come to UNCW. 

“I’ve had some major support from International Programs and some of the mentors who literally do nothing but drive us around – just having that support and mental confidence that there are people there to help you out whenever you need is important,” he said. “With the kind of welcoming community that UNCW is, it’s been an amazing journey so far.” 

-- Caitlin Taylor ’18M