Sara Shalabi

Country of Origin

Saudi Arabia

Level of Study

Undergraduate; Senior

Biomedical Sciences

Why did you choose CMU?
I chose CMU once I saw how beautiful the campus was. It’s like going to class in the park! The ratio of students to professor is small, which means there is a greater chance to interact with professors. CMU has a great reputation of welcoming International Students. 

What do you like most about CMU?
I love how it feels like everyone is family! I don’t feel like a foreigner at all. CMU is a great place because of its beautiful campus, friendly students and grounded and understanding faculty. There are so many activities to do! I call CMU my home. 

Did you face any culture shock (Academic, Personal, ...) when you arrived in CMU or in the United States?
I did! Back home, everyone complimented me on how good my English was. Once I arrived at CMU, faculty and staff members had a hard time understanding me. Few of the people I interacted with as a freshman did not even try to give me time to explain as I spoke slowly, trying to translate words from Arabic to English. Their facial expressions and lack of patience were enough to make me feel insecure about speaking English in public for two years. 

What resources did you use here on campus to help overcome the challenges you mentioned above?
The English Language Institute was a great help in furthering my fluency in the English language. I also used the Writing Center a lot in my first year. One of the most helpful resources for me is getting involved in student organization and attending events on campus!

Tell us about any hobbies or activities you enjoy.
I love being involved in the International Student Organization (ISO)!! I am the president for the 2018-2019 academic year. I love working with my E-board and creating fun social events for all students. My hope is that ISO will help everyone meet people from around the world and help create friendships, just like how it helped me five years ago. I have been involved with student organizations like ISO and the Saudi Students Club, in which I’ve attended events, volunteered and held a position on E-board since 2014. 

If you could travel to any place in the world, where would you go and why?
Lebanon for sure! I am half Lebanese and I just love the culture, nature, cuisine and the cities! In Lebanon you can go from the beach, to a crowded city and to the mountains all in just two hours of traveling. 

What advice would you give to International Students just arriving to CMU?
I advise International Students to use their time here not only to focus on academics but to also be involved on campus. Come to events, meet people, volunteer and do not be afraid of the language barrier. After all, we speak more than one language, it is totally okay to make mistakes. We should be proud!

Fun Facts about Sara

President of the International Student Organization (ISO)

Loves to meet new people from different cultures

Has siblings who also attend or have attended CMU

Also studies nutrition as a minor

Interview conducted by Brianna Hughes, graduate assistant with the Office of International Affairs, Ronan 330.