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NizThere is a wide expanse between what one sees in the media and movies and what one discovers in the Midwest, so learned Rasha Awadh Rashid Al Mamari.

“All did not show us the true face of America,” said the young woman, one of 23 students from Oman’s University of Nizwa who spent a good part of June immersing themselves into the academic, business and community culture of northeastern Wisconsin.

For Rasha Al Mamari, the visit to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and its home region represented a first visit to the United States. And it was clearly eye-opening, if not life-changing.

The University of Nizwa’s and UW Oshkosh’s 3rd annual “International Horizons” cultural exchange concluded July 2 with a special “graduation” ceremony for the Omani students.

Students received official certificates of completion and shared reflections on their “experiences laughter,” as Rasha Al Mamari put it, quoting Albert Einstein to open the July 2 program.

“Albert Einstein once said, ‘Life is like riding a bike – to keep your balance, you must keep moving,’” she said.

The Nizwa students’ graduation was the culmination of a four-week educational and cultural exchange rooted in foundational and collaborative business and chemistry courses offered at UW Oshkosh and UW Fox Valley and involving faculty from those institutions and UW Manitowoc.

“I’d like to thank all the students for the hard work they put into courses,” UW Oshkosh Provost and Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Lane Earns told the Nizwa students during their graduation luncheon July 2. “… These programs are the latest iterations of the exchanges between UW Oshkosh and Nizwa. May we continue our educational and cultural exchanges for years to come.”

Chance to meet a Congressman, see state, national capitols

Beyond the valuable business and chemistry courses offered, the month-long program introduces University of Nizwa students to an array of sociopolitical and business partners and entities – one of them being one of Wisconsin’s longest-serving U.S. Congressmen.

U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Fond du Lac, continued his tradition of meeting with the Nizwa delegation. On June 24, Wisconsin’s 6th Congressional District Congressman came to UW Oshkosh, met with the students and fielded an array of questions about American politics, the nature of the country’s democracy and his personal experiences in Washington D.C.

Questions focused on the challenges preventing U.S. students from attending and completing college to what Rep. Petri’s considers his major accomplishments while in Congress to public opinion on taxes.

“We disagree about (taxes) and argue about it but, at the end of the day, people don’t get angry about it if they feel the money is being well spent,” Petri told students.

The Nizwa students visited Madison as part of their visit to UW Oshkosh. After their studies concluded, they were scheduled to head to Washington D.C. to

Long partnership continues

The cultural exchange is the result of a deep commitment by the flourishing Omani university – one that has grown over the course of a long partnership with UW Oshkosh.

A first group of University of Nizwa students visited UW Oshkosh in the summer of 2011. The “Global Horizons” program was borne out of a long-lasting partnership and friendship that has existed between the two academic communities and schools since the mid-1990s.

The partnership dates back to UW Oshkosh Chancellor Emeritus John Kerrigan’s mid 1990s trips to Oman as an academic consultant on behalf of the U.S. State Department. Kerrigan helped the University of Nizwa’s founders develop a higher educational institution that, since 2004, has grown from 1,000 students to more than 8,000.

UW Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells said the cultural exchange born out of the long-standing relationship has proven just as enriching to his campus’ academic community.

“We learn more from you than you learn from us,” Wells told the cultural exchange graduates on July 2. “… It’s a great exchange.”

Wells also said the two institutions’ origins and legacies are similar. UW Oshkosh began in 1871 as a teacher-preparatory school – one that opened new doors of educational opportunity for women in Wisconsin and the United States. The University of Nizwa, while now a decade old, has been no less instrumental in providing opportunities for Oman’s women. Meanwhile, it is educating and propelling thousands of students – men and women – and, in doing so, furthering the growth and prosperity of Oman, Wells said.

“You are really, in my opinion, pioneers,” he said.

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