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Sunday, November 18, 2018

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From left to right: Bernardo Paterniti, Muzi “Lily” Li, Abdulaziz Alhubail. (Credit: SDSU International Student Center) From left to right: Bernardo Paterniti, Muzi “Lily” Li, Abdulaziz Alhubail. (Credit: SDSU International Student Center)

Graduating International Seniors Share Their SDSU Stories

Three international students reflect on their time studying abroad at SDSU.
By Michael Klitzing

No matter where you’re from, studying at San Diego State University can be a life-changing experience. For students coming to SDSU from halfway around the world—suddenly immersed in a new language and culture—those changes can be even more dramatic.

Three graduating international seniors shared their favorite experiences, plans for the future and how their time at SDSU has changed them.

Muzi “Lily” Li, Marketing

Back in her native China, Li was considered the “quiet girl” in class. You’d never guess that now.

“Coming to the United States was a chance to find who I wanted to be,” Li said. “It gave me the opportunity to be in control."

Studying abroad was not part of Li's original plans. A native of Harbin in frigid northeastern China, she attended a year of college back home before deciding she wanted to change her major—something not typically done there. That’s when her family suggested a study abroad program in the United States.  

“I'm not going to lie, I was terrified,” she said. “But it was an opportunity to become a better version of myself."

After living with extended relatives while studying at Sacramento City College, Li started to crave independence, eventually leading her to SDSU, a place with no family nearby. She pushed herself to master the English language, which she had studied in school but never mastered conversationally. She now speaks virtually unaccented.

With no one to depend on but herself, Li transformed into a confident leader. By her second semester, she became president of her residence hall council and eventually started working as a community assistant. She also became an SDSU ambassador, leading campus tours for groups of 30-40 prospective students and their parents.    

“Being in this position made me realize that it's not just about me, it's about serving the campus community and students,” Li said. “That's something that I absolutely love."

Li is currently applying for jobs, both in the United States and abroad.

Abdulaziz Alhubail, Mechanical Engineering

As a native of Kuwait, where the oil industry is integral, Alhubail said his choice of major came from being realistic. Though if he could chose a dream major, it would be English.

“I love the language, and I think I’ve become really good at it."

Alhubail’s embrace of the language allowed him to make many new friends at SDSU.

"Learning English opened up my brain to new things—to try to be more social and to learn from people,” he said. “I went from being close-minded in my own culture to trying new things and listening to new ideas.”

As a devout Muslim, Alhubail made it a goal to educate the SDSU campus community about his country and religion. Among other things, he hosted a table representing Kuwait during International Peace Village.

Alhubail is looking for a job in then oil industry, most likely in Kuwait, though he is open to opportunities in Texas. He plans to return home to Kuwait in July.

Bernardo Paterniti, Finance

Paterniti clearly remembers his first impression of the United States, and the amazement he felt at something many here take for granted.

“I remember seeing these huge freeways with so many people on the road,” said Paterniti. “That’s something that sticks in your brain forever.”

A native of Florence, Italy, he originally came to the United States to take an English language course at the University of California, Irvine, thinking he would return home after six months. Then he began to meet people and make friends and six months turned into four years.

“There was so much to do, so many people to meet,” Paterniti said. “That was really unexpected coming from a country where universities are just buildings and professors.

Along the way, Paterniti discovered his passion for exploring cultural differences. That fascination led him to take a job at SDSU's International Student Center, where he worked alongside exchange students from around the world. He also became an intercultural ambassador, teaching local elementary school students about Italy. He even studied abroad for a semester in the Czech Republic.

When Paterniti looks to the future, he doesn’t necessarily see it confined to Italy. While he would like to find a job in the United States, he is also considering master's programs, both stateside and abroad in Europe and China.