Wika Nadera from the Philippines completed a semester at NMU through the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program, which provides scholarships to outstanding undergraduate students from around the world for non-degree full-time study combined with community service, professional development and cultural enrichment. He focused on art and design classes at NMU; in his home country, he is a fourth-year student in visual communication.
This semester marked the first time Nadera has had face-to-face classes in three years because of the pandemic. He took advantage of the chance to take courses that weren't offered in the Philippines. He formally studied woodworking, which he had implemented in his art before. Photography and Native American beadwork styles were also part of his curriculum at NMU.
“What has greatly contributed to my artistry has definitely been my interactions with the people around me,” said Nadera. “It's not limited to my classes; it extends to the lessons that I've learned from international students or from students who are studying here. I feel like I have been very rigid with myself in being an artist, but the people I've met here taught me how to let loose and have fun in getting to know myself in another country. I've had many exchanges with them, spent a lot of time with them and learned so much from them.”
Nadera's scholarship through the Global UGRAD Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, a nonprofit called World Learning, and Fulbright. Applicants don't know where they will be placed in the U.S. Nadera believes that his essay placed him in Marquette.
“I studied on top of a mountain for six years for my high school,” he said. “I wrote in the essay a lot about my kind of education, being close with nature, and art about being close with nature. So maybe the reason I was put here was because NMU is close to nature. Just being here and studying here, I am inspired by my environment. I have zero regrets. This has been such an amazing experience for me. Everyone has just been so kind and so helpful and so supportive. I feel like I'm in the perfect school to be in for my one semester in the U.S.”
The application was a year-long process that included a VISA application, orientations and essay writing. The day Nadera started applying for the scholarship, he contracted COVID-19.
“I was at a very low point in my life. This scholarship experience feels like an award because of all the challenges I went through during the online classes for the past almost three years. It's been a very difficult process, and it's a very time-consuming process, but it's definitely been a rewarding and worthwhile event.”
Nadera said he hopes to have a career as a production designer where he can incorporate the different practices he has learned. If not, he wants to pursue a job in photography or woodworking. He encourages other exchange students to open up to others.
“My first few weeks here, there was a tendency for me to shut myself off because it's like a culture shock thing for me. That's why I was shy and quite closed with regard to social interaction. But later on, I realized that to really enjoy my time here, I have to reach out to people and talk with them. It's important to have conversations with different people being open with people. The very word ‘exchange' says a lot about how important it is to exchange conversations with people from different countries.”
Once Nadera returns home, he will spend a lot of time with his family and prepare to transfer credits.