WIU International Student Success Spotlight: Bahar Mamedova

Bahar Mamedova

Bahar Mamedova is an international graduate student in Western’s Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Administration.

Recently, our office helped promote the fact that Western Illinois University’s international student enrollment has reached more than 500, thanks to the diligence of Center for International Studies (CIS), administrators, faculty and staff.

Rick Carter, executive director of the School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach, along with WIU administrators and Western’s English as a Second Language (WESL) director, have crossed the oceans and traversed to embassies in Washington, D.C., establishing relationships, forging partnerships and spreading the good word about WIU. As a result, new international student enrollment has increased by 140 this fall to 511 students from 370 in Fall 2013.

Behind those numbers are the stories of the hundreds of international students who come to Western from faraway lands. To share their experiences, once a month, with the help of staff in the Center for International Studies, we’ll be spotlighting an international student.

This month, we start with graduate student Bahar Mamedova, who is from Turkmenistan.

Q: How did you learn about Western Illinois University and why did you decide to apply to and attend Western?

Bahar: My husband attended WIU, and after he graduated, I also decided to apply at Western to pursue my master’s degree. I always had a dream to study at an American university, and despite current criticism of American higher education, I still believe that it is among the most competitive higher education systems in the world. America, in the past, has made large investments in higher education and has built a tremendous infrastructure of universities, libraries, classrooms, and laboratories.

Personally, I applied here because Western is equipped well with updated electronic technologies and there are lots of different educational resources that I could benefit from. Additionally, at Western, international students are free to choose from vast programs of study and faculty members are always accessible and ready to help.

Q: What do you hope to do with your graduate degree in recreation, park and tourism administration (RPTA) once you graduate?

Bahar Mamedova - WESL Graduation

Bahar Mamedova (center) and Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas (left) and School of Distance Learning, International Studies and Outreach Executive Director Rick Carter at Bahar’s graduation ceremony from Western’s English as a Second Language (WESL) Institute.

Bahar: After I graduate from Western, I would like to utilize my knowledge and skills in international tourism administration in my home country, Turkmenistan. Currently, Turkmenistan is trying to develop its own tourism industry. New tourism-promoting ideas and innovative approaches are needed in Turkmenistan, and I believe I would be able to positively contribute to this process.

Q: What have been (or are) your RPTA favorite courses and why?

Bahar: My favorite RPTA classes include international tourism, statistics, and event planning.

From the international tourism course, I learned a lot about cultural diversity, multiculturalism, and globalization. In the statistics class, I significantly improved my ability to extract value from data and effectively communicate that value. The event planning class equipped me with important tools and skills and also provided me with a necessary foundation to organize high-quality events.

With all I have learned in my graduate courses at WIU, I am successfully utilizing during my internship at WIU’s Center for International Studies.

Q: What kinds of things did you learn during your internship at Western?

Bahar: My internship experience allows me to work with diverse international student populations. While at the Office of International Student Orientation and Activities, I had an opportunity to work in a friendly, professional, and exciting environment that provides a great potential for growth experiences and advancement. Over the course of the internship, I was involved with several projects aiming to improve international student experiences on campus. These experiences clearly defined my internship expectations and goals.

Overall, it was a valuable experience that gave me a greater appreciation for those who deal with a culturally diverse international student population within the university on a daily basis.

Q: Tell me about one of your most memorable experiences here at Western.

Bahar: One of my most enjoyable volunteer experiences was teaching children to speak Russian at the PACT Head Start. It was fun and exciting to see children trying to learn a new language. This experience gave me an understanding that even a little effort can make an impact in a child’s or anyone’s life. I deeply believe that being involved as a volunteer will make our community a better place to live, and it also enriches our own lives.

Q: What are some of your favorite activities to engage in while you’re here in the U.S.?

Bahar: I like to spend all my free time with my children by engaging them in different learning and recreational activities. I also like to travel to see new places. While in the U.S., I have learned skiing and ice-skating. It was a fun experience.

The Making of the #WIUnselfie Movement

WIU Students taking part in the WIUnselfie Movement

Brett Moody, Caitlyn Westfall, and Brian Kocher, students in Western’s College Student Personnel (CSP) Program working on the #WIUnselfie Movement project. According to the CSP student group, the mission of the WIUnselfie Movement is to develop a culture of positive community built upon meaningful connections through social media. The student group responsible for the project aims to reverse selfie culture by promoting recognition of others through accountability and awareness of often overlooked qualities, achievements, and good will at Western.

A few weeks ago, two Western graduate students reached out to us for a brief meet up in the University Relations Office. They wanted help in promoting their “WIUnselfie movement,” a project that they, and some of their fellow master’s candidates in Western’s College Student Personnel Program (CSP), were involved in via one of their CSP courses.

Naturally, we wanted to know what it was all about–as you likely do, particularly if you have seen their various messages around campus. So, with the help of her fellow students, Caitlyn Westfall (Macomb, IL) provided me with the details of the project and how the students hope to use it to “reverse selfie culture” on social media these days.

Q: Tell me about how the #WIUnselfie project came about.

Caitlyn: This project came from one of the classes in Western’s CSP Program. We were given the project by one of our professors to “make the world a better place.” We were not given any other context other than that. We talked for a few weeks about some things we thought could make a change in the world around us (to the Western Illinois University/Macomb community).

One of our group members brought up an idea of doing something selfless, such as leaving sticky-notes with positive messages around WIU’s campus. From there, another member brought up an idea he had observed in his undergraduate experience–he and his friend tried to get an “unselfie” movement started. The purpose of that movement was to promote unselfish acts and recognize the people who perform them. Examples of this are such things as holding the door open for someone behind you or paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line. From there, we worked out the details, and the hashtag #WIUnselfie was born, and we went from there!

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkVrrvgSeZY]
WIU College Student Personnel Master’s Degree Candidates made this video as part of their “WIUnselfie Movement” for a project in CSP Professor Tracy Davis’s group dynamics course.

Q: Who is involved with it here at Western?

Caitlyn: The people involved are primarily in Dr. Tracy Davis’s group dynamics class.

Q: What does the group hope to accomplish with this project?

Caitlyn: We have seen a rise in negative social media lately, and we wanted to find a way to spread positive social media. We are hoping that by creating a new outlet for positive social media to take over, we’ll be creating a new buzz on campus. Instead of sitting around the lunch table gossiping negatively about their peers, we are hoping students, faculty, staff, and community members talk about the great things going on.

WIUnselfies on Instagram

Follow the WIUnselfie Movement on Instagram at instagram.com/wiunselfies

Q: How will the group go about accomplishing these goals?

Caitlyn: We have created an Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook page for people to submit pictures to. We also have these social media outlets so that we are able to promote the movement itself. We have gone around campus a few different times getting pictures of people or groups doing great things and also getting the word out. We have created a neat Instagram style frame for people to take pictures with. We have also promoted our movement as big campus events such as the Fall Leadership Conference and Make A Difference Day and we saw great feedback from that.

Q: Who are the other CSP students involved?

Caitlyn: Danielle Buckner (Lake Forest, CA), Amy Bumatai (Mililani, HI), Melinda Daniels (Milwaukee, WI), Brian Kocher (Henry, IL), Maggie Miller (Boone, IA), Brett Moody (Taylorville, IL), Kelly Severs (Macomb, IL), and our group facilitator Emily Simon (Moncolva, OH).

Q: Anything else I neglected to ask you about in the above-listed questions that would be important to include?

Caitlyn: Anyone can find us on Instagram at @wiunselfies, Facebook at www.facebook.com/wiunselfiemovement, Twitter at @wiunselfies, or we can be emailed at wiunselfiemovement@gmail.com.