The Collegian
Monday, February 26, 2024

International Spotlight: Senior Hoor Ul Ain’s international activism across UR

Having been an Orientation Leader for the past two years, senior Hoor Ul Ain is a recognizable face on campus, known for her effort in bringing the international community together. 

In the spring 2022 semester, Ul Ain won the International Education’s 2022 Global Engagement Award for her efforts as a global ambassador and her fearless advocacy.

Ul Ain talked about how she first felt coming in as an international student into a completely new environment.

“One of the peer advisors the school connected with me was from the same country as me," she said. "Furthermore, my Orientation Advisor was also from the same city as me. So I remember feeling very excited since I knew there were people who came from the same background as me."

However, Ul Ain expressed her disappointment with the International Orientation when she first came to the University of Richmond

“The International Orientation was not what I expected. It was just sitting and listening to laws for international students. I remember feeling overwhelmed. I felt like I was not having a good time here,” she said.

Ul Ain said she felt self-conscious and like other students were judging her for being an international student when she first got here. 

“I was just very aware of everything," she said. "The food, the weather, the people – it all felt very confusing at first.”

The first time Ul Ain felt like she was part of a community at UR was when she became a member of the South Asian Student Alliance, Ul Ain said.

“My first week here, SASA hosted an event, and I remember going there and meeting so many people who made me feel comfortable. It felt like I had found a community there and they were waiting to welcome me,” she said.

Ul Ain highlighted how important it was for her to meet like-minded people, especially those who shared a similar background.

Ul Ain said having her mentor Myrsini ManouGeorgila, ‘19, and former student government representative, was inspiring.

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“It was really inspiring for me to see my mentor since she always brought up issues that affected international students. I feel that I tried to follow her footsteps by also participating in the student government and taking a stand for the international community,” Ul Ain said.

Ul Ain has made efforts to ensure she takes initiatives to bring the international community together, through hosting events, socials and talking to international students one-on-one, she said. 

“International students are always trying to do things to bring the community closer," she said. "For example, I always try to do a dinner or a hangout for Thanksgiving since many internationals are unable to go back home during that holiday."

One of the most monumental events during her undergraduate career at UR was when the COVID-19 pandemic hit during her first year, Ul Ain said. 

“It was a very difficult time. I was 10 hours behind and had to take classes early mornings because of the time difference. I felt disconnected from my class, friends and family,” she said.

Some international students, including herself, drafted a letter of demands to the UR president to ensure that UR was being more supportive of the international students during the pandemic, Ul Ain said.

“We all signed the letter, and I remember we sent it to the student government who then sent it to the president’s office. As a consequence of our letter, the president actually ended up signing the Harvard and MIT lawsuit against the Trump administration for the rights of the international students,” Ul Ain said. 

Ul Ain appreciated how the Office of International Education supported students, not only on a technical level but also emotionally, she said.

As an Orientation Advisor, one of her priorities was to ensure that in addition to learning about laws and regulations, international students were also having fun during orientation, Ul Ain said. 

“We wanted to make it super fun through socials and activities," she said. "I remember helping the first-years move in and our priority was to make sure that they felt settled in. We wanted to show them that even Target runs could be fun."

Ul Ain believes there should be more events catered to specific traditions of international students, she said.

“Every couple of months, there should be celebrations for traditions of international students. It could be an Eid celebration in the dining hall or just something that celebrates international activism. Overall, just more celebratory events would be great and international students would feel appreciated,” she said.

Ul Ain is excited about the future of the international community, she said.

“I think the international community is in a really good place right now," she said "In the past, I felt like there was a distance in the community, especially because of the pandemic. But now, there is an energy in the international students that are bringing us all together and I feel really good about our future."

Contact international editor Ahona Anjum at ahona.anjum@richmond.edu.

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