Summer 2016 — Abdullah Al Ghunduf, a graduate student in radiology, comes from a family of farmers in a small town 8,000 miles away in Saudi Arabia. Grant-Michael Huber, an undergraduate studying sociology, has spent his life in Albany and the surrounding area — including many Saturdays at Reser Stadium. Through INTO OSU’s Cultural Ambassador Conversant Program, the two have formed a strong bond that transcends culture or place of origin.
This program pairs domestic students with international students to spend time together with each week. Activities range from attending a sporting event together, enjoying a meal or going on a hike.
Both Al Ghunduf and Huber had fears upon starting OSU. Al Ghunduf was concerned about safety and acclimating to life in a new country away from his family. Huber was worried about roommates and deciding on a major. Al Ghunduf was both intrigued and nervous about the many unfamiliar foods and the lack of the traditional foods he was used to eating.
Their first activity was a meal at McMenamins with another conversant partner from Colombia. They talked about a range of topics, from differences in food, to varying expectations of relationships and courtship. “They asked more than generic questions, they always want to go deeper and make me think more about my response,” Huber said in a Recreational Sports Member Story.
This, Huber felt, was an extra layer of conversation that isn’t always present with his friends from the United States.
Al Ghunduf’s involvement in the conversational program has been incredibly helpful in improving his English, especially in terms of slang and linguistic nuances that are difficult to pick up in a classroom setting. Through his interactions with Huber, he has felt more comfortable in his surroundings. He loves to ask questions and get explanations firsthand rather than make assumptions based on films or books.
Al Ghunduf encourages other international students to take full advantage of this experience. “Study hard and make friendships to improve your English quickly, gain culture and share your hobbies,” he says.