Last week, The Bulletin ran a feature on Talal Khelifi, graduate English student and winner of 1863 Scholarship, which he was awarded at the Founder’s Day Luncheon Feb. 15. The following is Khelifi’s winning essay:
It was almost two years ago since I first came to Emporia State University. As a Fulbright laureate, I was supposed to teach the Arabic language and Arabic culture and civilization. The program goal, as it was stated to me at the Embassy of the United States in Algiers, was to bring international scholars to cities in America that are not exposed to cultural diversity. With this idea in my mind, I had for a mission to teach Americans new things. However, the biggest surprise was to discover that I was entering the biggest learning experience in my life.
Faculty members at Emporia State University embraced me and showed great deal of respect in dealing with me. I was enrolled as a student at the department of English, Modern Languages, and Journalism, and one year later, I am pursuing my studies as a graduate student.
Emporia State University enabled me to have a graduate assistantship position which stipulates a total waiver of tuition. Where I come from, graduate studies are reserved to fortunate people with a very high income, and assistantships usually go to those who are well connected with governmental structures. I would have never dared to dream to pursue my studies in my country. This chance that Emporia State University gives to students like me is a gift from heaven.
Emporia State University made me believe that equal opportunities still exist; I wake up every morning thinking about how fortunate I am and how my life would have become if I did not get this assistantship. Graduating from Emporia State University will enable me to aspire for a better future, a future that was not that bright one year ago. A degree in English from an English speaking country will open lot of doors to me back home; I can be a teacher at the university level and maybe more if I earn a doctorate degree.
I work at the Office of International Education and since I started I have met lot of people from all over the world. Each one of them has contributed to enhance my knowledge and shape my understanding of the world. It is very enriching to meet people with different perspectives about life; it helps to get rid of the limitedness of monoculturalism; it also helps to open a new horizon of ideas that offers an extraterritoriality which surpasses Emporia State University’s geographical positioning. Being here gives me the impression that I have traveled the world. I have friends from Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East, which is extremely impressive when people back home always thought that I was shy, introverted, and could not reach out to people. It is thanks to Emporia State University that I opened up and started to talk in public and share my ideas in front of an audience; I speak my mind during class sessions and despite the fact that my English is not perfect, my statements are always welcomed and treated with respect.
When I first came to Emporia State University, I went through the international orientation process of which TB screening is a very important step. I was very sad to learn that I was diagnosed with tuberculosis and thought that I was condemned to die. However, the director of the wellness center called me to come over. I sat down with her and we talked. She convinced me that everything would be ok; she also told me that the State of Kansas provides the tuberculosis medicine for free. I went through ten months of TB treatment and thanks to people at the wellness center, the State of Kansas, and Emporia State University, now I am tuberculosis free. The most interesting part of that story is that prior to coming to the United States, I have gone through the same blood tests and they appeared negative. If I had not come to Emporia State University, I would have never figured out what was running in my blood.
Since that date, I always endeavored to keep myself healthy. I go to the Recreation Center every day after finishing studies and work. I go to the library to study and meet my friends. I am advancing in my knowledge and my English is getting better every day. I even know more about my country and its literature than when I was in my country. Emporia State University has helped me to know about my own culture, its history and its authors; the classes I am taking here would usually be subject to criticism in my country because classes have to fit into a certain political perspective that our leaders have put up as a model, instead of meeting the pedagogical requirements of the students.
Emporia State University is my home; it is the place of my rebirth, my confidence that was lost, and my future that was found. I will graduate from here one day, but Emporia State will always stay in my heart, and as a future alumnus, I am willing to honor this university and be one of its huge contributors.
Hornet Pride Forever.