From Rocky Beginnings to Promising Futures

By Oksana Smoliniec
SC Staff Writer

With charisma and humility, Karim Saadoune smiled at me, a sparkle in his eyes and asked if there was anything else I needed to know after he thanked me for interviewing him.

This semester Saadoune, a man who did not speak English, only Arabic and French when he first arrived in the US 4 years ago, will be graduating with a dual major in business management with a concentration in financing and French all the while keeping up a 3.6 GPA.

“The feeling I had picking up my cap and gown and the summa cum laude yellow sash is indescribable. It’s like no other student felt. I never thought this would be possible especially after my first year,” said Saadoune.

After having the chance to attend a basketball camp at Kutztown University during summers when he was in high school, Saadoune fell in love with the American dream. However, after only his first semester, Saadoune did not want to return to ESU, feeling as though he was not cut out for it. His brother asked him to give it another try before giving up the opportunity, and as a family oriented devoted brother letting his family down was not an option.

“I have an international scholarship for which I must have at least a 3.0 GPA and perform 20 hours of community service to keep,” said Saadoune when asked how he does it. “School is much easier here than it is in my country.”

Saadoune is a Tunisian exchange student who was recruited to ESU to play basketball because he was a national champion in his city of Tunis, the country’s capital. Unfortunately he was not given the chance to play for the school’s team, but he has managed to make the best of his time here.

The experience he has had at ESU was not always as great as it is now. “Meeting people was difficult, it took time to become confident in my conversational skills but overtime this changed my personality, I don’t feel like I need to always be the leader like I do back home with my friends. Life is less stressful this way.”

A group of students from Tunisia who Saadoune is familiar with went to San Francisco to study, but he knew if he went with them that learning English and new people would be less important. Saadoune was never one to take the easy way out, so he worked at it.

Through his own struggle, Saadoune realized that, like him, there are students who come to ESU without a plan as to how they will adapt to the culture and truly experience it.

He did not want the language barriers to get in the way of other students enjoying their own experiences, so he made sure to go to the International Student Organization meetings (ISO) and introduce himself to them. Saadoune introduced himself to students, took them around town, introduced them to his own friends, and invited them out, showing them as much fun as he could.

“I met a great group of friends who have supported me and helped me learn English and succeed in my college experiences. I wanted other international students to be just as lucky. Mike Ceglio has become one of my best friends, he helped me make the most of my time here,” says Saadoune.

Saadoune’s mother will be coming to watch her son graduate May 9 at ESU. He is extremely excited to introduce her to the wonderful people he’s met.

“I don’t even know if I’m going to get on the plane with my mom on her way back to Tunisia yet. I have 60 days after June 1 to find a job,” said Saadoune. “America is the best country in the world. I’m job hunting every day so that I don’t regret not giving it my all.”

At 23, Saadoune is courageous and driven, getting all that he could out of an amazing opportunity and meeting people who have changed his life along the way.

Anyone who is inspired by Saadoune’s story to welcome international students into the ESU community can contact Michael Laffey, Coordinator of International Programs, in Stroud Hall 103.

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