Going to college can be difficult for all of us, but perhaps it’s even harder when there is no one else quite like you.
Slim Ben Khalifa is the only Weber State University student from the small country of Tunisia, located in the northern part of Africa. In fact, he is the only student from all of northern Africa.
Under these circumstances, adaption is key for the freshman who studies pre-medicine.
“At first it was a little difficult,” he says, but he added that after a while making friends came to him more easily. Living in Wildcat Village just south of campus, Khalifa was exposed to people from many different backgrounds.
Given the fact that he didn’t learn much English in school, Khalifa considers his integration a major accomplishment. In Tunisia, a former French colony, most school instruction is given in French or Arabic.
In order to prepare himself better for his education at WSU, Khalifa moved to Boston for nine months, dedicating most of his time to learning English.
“The school system in Tunisia is very different, and you need really good grades to even get into university,” he said. During this time, his desire to study in America solidified.
Still, he loves his home country, especially now that it is a free democracy. In late 2010, it was his generation that started what is now known as the “Arab Spring.”
This revolution, initiated by the Tunisian youth, ended decades of dictatorship and oppression in Khalifa’s home country. In the process, many other countries throughout the region followed Tunisia’s example.
Besides enjoying this newly gained freedom, he enjoys playing tennis and taking pictures.
“The views here are amazing,” he said.
And whenever he misses his Muslim culture too much, he goes to the Shepherd Union meditation room to pray and to meet people from many different cultures doing the same. According to Weber.edu, this prayer room is open to all students looking to meditate, worship and socialize.
Generally, being a Muslim can be difficult if most of your friends are not, Khalifa said, adding, “I always have to ask if there is pork in the food I eat.”
Despite differences in culture, international students make a large impact at WSU, according to Morteza Emami, the director of the international student office. A former WSU international student himself, he now takes care of the needs of students from 45 different countries.
“What impresses me most about these students is the sacrifices they are willing to make, especially financially,” he said. “They are extremely dedicated and their education is very important to them.”