International engineering student studies at WKU

Pakistani student Bareera Mirza dreamed of building skyscrapers as a child. Now, after earning a scholarship to study civil engineering at WKU, those dreams are coming true, Mirza said. “I used to say, even the sky is not my limit. I work for that. I’m not intelligent, I’m not smart. I work for it.”

Emily DeLetter

The WKU Global Undergraduate Program, or UGRAD, is hosting its third student this semester from Pakistan.

Bareera Nadeem Mirza, a 22-year-old civil engineering major, is from Karachi in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Mirza is the third student attending WKU for a semester through the UGRAD-Pakistan program. The two previous students, who were also women studying engineering, attended WKU during the Spring 2015 and 2017 semesters.

International Student and Scholar advisor Ashely Givan said UGRAD is part of the United States Cultural Exchange program, which is done through the U.S. Department of State. It is administered under a nonprofit organization called IREX for the countries of Pakistan and Tunisia.

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“The students who are a part of [UGRAD] are very high achieving in their universities back home,” Givan said. “They demonstrate that they’re going to apply what they’ve learned to help their communities back home.”

The program is free for students who apply, as it is funded by the state department and administered by IREX. Students like Mirza attending WKU have their housing, tuition and health insurance paid for. The 2017-2018 tuition for a full-time international student attending WKU is $13,080 per semester, according to the 2017-2018 Tuition and Fees Schedule.

In Pakistan, Mirza attends Ned University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi. She is currently in her sixth semester studying to become a civil engineer.

Mirza said she developed an interest in buildings, especially the Wonders of the World, such as the Great Wall of China and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. She said she hopes to be an engineer who contributes to make the best or most iconic buildings in the world.

Mirza said the application process for UGRAD was very competitive, as only 200 of the thousands of students who apply each year are selected.

“I was reluctant at first, but all my friends were applying for it and it’s a very good opportunity,” Mirza said.

Mirza said she believed her civil service award, involvement with a debate team, community service and high GPA contributed to her acceptance into the program.

Mirza was first placed on the shortlist of approximately 400 students, but eventually was fully accepted and placed at WKU.

“When I first came to WKU a lot of people were shocked that I was studying civil engineering, like they had a concept that girls in Pakistan do not study at all,” Mirza said. “A girl studying in such a male-dominated field was very different.”

According to the American Society for Engineering Education, 80.1 percent of engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2015 were earned by men, with just 19.9 percent of the degrees going to women. Out of that 19.9 percent, 22 percent of women studied civil engineering in 2015.

“It has nothing to do with gender,” Mirza said. “It depends on potential. I work hard so that I stand shoulder to shoulder with men.”

While attending WKU, Mirza is active in the nonprofit organization Habitat for Humanity. She said she chose the organization because she wanted to build and learn about building structures out of materials unfamiliar to her.

At WKU, Mirza said she hopes to become more organized and patient and develop a better ear for listening to others. She said she thinks her experience at WKU will help her to be a better leader who listens and values input from others.

“If you are dedicated and have passion, you can do it,” Mirza said. “You can do anything you want.”

Reporter Emily DeLetter can be reached at 270-745-6011 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emilydeletter.