Saudi student shares experience of serving in ISO program

Madison Martin

As many WKU students have likely suspected, the university with an international reach is home to quite a few scholars from across the world — over 1,000 from more than 70 countries, according to the International Student Office’s website.

Part of International Enrollment Management (IEM), the International Student Office (ISO) provides student services to scholars from abroad in order to help orient them to the community, Scarlette Briones, a graduate intern for IEM, said. 

But the office can’t do everything, and so the International Diplomats program has been supported to create more student involvement. The International Diplomats provide a unique opportunity for new international students to become better acclimated by engaging with other students who have gone through similar experiences.

Ali Alsheef, president of the International Diplomats and senior from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, came to the United States in 2012 to study English in Chicago and then become a paramedic in Bowling Green. A world traveler from a young age, Alsheef is proud to say he has been to every continent — save Antarctica — by the time he turned 21. 

“I promise you, that’s the best money you are going to spend in your life,” he said.  

After coming to WKU and becoming part of the original group of International Diplomats, Alsheef has worked with a wide variety of students which has, in turn, made him richer. 

“I would say the most amazing thing about being a diplomat is the friends we make every day,” Alsheef said. 

When international students apply to become a Diplomat, they are signing up to be a part of the admission and integration processes — helping translate for new students, creating events for domestic and international students, working in the IEM office, and simply being available, whether it be for answering questions or providing support for homesickness. Currently there are ten Diplomats, who cover a wide variety of areas and languages.

According to Alsheef, when new students touch down in the United States, an International Diplomat who speaks their language will meet them with their shuttle in order to welcome them to their new school. International Diplomats help with the International Student Orientation, similar to M.A.S.T.E.R. Plan, which takes place before the start of each semester in order to familiarize new students with the campus, as well as make new friends.

“So now, we’re killing the homesick feeling, because they don’t feel alone anymore,” Alsheef said. “…class hasn’t even started yet, and they already have friends, and then you’re going to have even more. So that’s our job.”

Keeping up with their duties to introduce students to the American culture, the International Diplomats hosted a “Sexy Accent” party at the Faculty House on Fri., Feb. 12, an event open for all students to mix and mingle. 

Alsheef said that, contrary to perhaps a common belief, international students are eager to meet and become friends with domestic students. Briones agreed that the purpose of these events was to bring both groups of students together.

“When you have international events, it doesn’t mean only international students,” he said. “The whole point is that it might come from the international student side of point of view, but they’re wanting to get everyone together.”

Alsheef said that meeting students from around the world and learning about their culture is mind-opening and even similar to traveling. 

“I encourage everybody to have international friends,” Briones said. “Promise you, you won’t regret that. It’ll open your mind.”

Because, at the end of the day, Alsheef said that it’s these friendships he makes that matter the most. 

“The treasure for me in this life is not money, but the friendships I have,” he said. “So with this, yeah I’ve increased my treasure; I have a lot of money.”