A long way from home, Bilal Yasir, an exchange student from the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan is enjoying his time at a destination he worked hard to reach—The University of New Mexico.

Yasir was selected out of 12,000 applicants to come and study in the U.S. by the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan, funded by the United States Department of State and administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX). He is the first Pakistani student from NUST to come and study through IREX at UNM. UNM has hosted more than 20 students from this program over the last five-years.

Chicago vert
Yasir explores other parts of the U.S. in a recent trip to Chicago.

"The State Department exchange students are some of the most brilliant students at UNM,” said Susi Knoblauch, an international advisor at the Global Education Office. “They bring a curiosity for learning about everything we have here and help American students learn about Pakistan. The State Department exchange students help change their views by building personal relationships with them by becoming a new friend from far away."

Yasir is a part of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program in Pakistan through U.S. State Department and IREX. This program focuses on the professional development program for leaders in growing regions of the world. It seeks to enhance the skills of its participants in issues concerning transparency, accountability, tolerance, conflict resolution, the environment, women and gender.

The participants study for four months in the United States with a local nonprofit or government agency that trains them in these areas in preparation for their return home. They then engage in follow-up projects that implement the skills they have learned during their study abroad experience. 

Throughout the semester, Yasir will spend 20 hours doing community work, delivering cultural presentations, and participating in American cultural activities that concern the youth in today's world.

"My perspective has already been changed. There are many ways in which I see that Pakistan is behind and I want to find new solutions to try and bridge that gap. There are many things that I would like to try and improve for the people in my home," says Yasir. 

Upon their return, all IREX students will share their understanding of the U.S. with their home communities and use their experience to promote cultural understanding and growth.

Yasir is from Shorkot, a small town in the Punjab province of Pakistan. He has already started making plans for his return to help better his community. Yasir wishes to become a social activist to promote people's empowerment and peace through civil engineering. From his experience in the U.S., he now has an in-depth understanding of how to provide better living conditions in the developing area.  

Among other things, Yasir has had the opportunity to explore New Mexican culture and scenery. He has been enamored by Albuquerque's old town, downtown, Sandia peak, and White Sands National Monument. The people, much like the green chile, have been surprisingly welcoming and full of spice.

White Sands
Yasir and friends visit White Sands, N.M.

"Bilal is a wonderful and conscientious human with a warm-hearted personality. It is no wonder he has already found many friends at UNM from all over the world," said Knoblauch.

For more information on the program contact Danielle Gilliam, administrative officer, UNM Global Education Office at dgilliam@unm.edu or (505) 277.605.