Category Archives: Uncategorized

Making Sense of my American Life

By Chihiro Sakagami, Exchange Student at Chatham University

July 2022

“Shut the front door!” “Did I get 63 points! Seriously!?”

This is my reaction when I got an alphabet test result in junior high school, and this tragic event led me to think about my American life negatively.

Due to my father’s job transfer with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, I lived in the U.S. between the ages of 1 and 5, and I went to Ann Arbor Hills Child Development Center in Michigan during those five years. I gained innumerable experiences, such as making many American friends, holding a birthday party at a dinosaur museum, visiting states in the U.S., and acquiring easy Spanish vocabularies. If I had not lived here, I would not have experienced these cherished experiences in my life. After I came back to Japan and started elementary school, my teacher asked me to hold English lessons for my classmates, and she gave me some opportunities to talk about my memories abroad. I loved telling my story so much that I might have talked a lot then. In elementary school, I believed that because I was good at speaking English, I must be able to get a higher score than other Japanese students.

The first English exam at junior high school came. It was the easiest exam I have ever taken because the only thing that I had to do was to fill the blanks with letters in the alphabet in the right order. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sing the ABC song in the middle of the exam, especially through N to P, which made the task of remembering the alphabet suddenly impossible for me. I remember I sang that song like “…H, I, J, K L, #$%&#$%#, O, P.” One week later, I got the result, and found it to be an impressively low score, 63 points. “What was the point of my life in Michigan? Why did so many other students get 100 points?” I lost sight of myself. I began to feel a kind of guilty of the way I spent time in Michigan and my English proficiency. Since I’m a very competitive person, I started to study English diligently and energetically with my mother who I admire as a fluent English speaker to get a good grade in the next English test. Moreover, I studied English by listening to Taylor Swift’s RED album. However, lamentably, I couldn’t get the top grade in the English test in my class throughout junior high and high school. From my perspective, the reason why I couldn’t succeed in the English tests was that I couldn’t understand the English grammar. In the lecture, my teacher often used words which were difficult for me to recognize, such as adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, and prepositions. I haven’t heard of those words when I learned English in the U.S. I still cannot believe that other students could understand the grammar which makes me feel nauseous even now.

When I was a third-grade junior high school student, I got a ticket to become a school representative in the English Speech contest for students in Aichi prefecture where I lived. To join the competition and win a gold medal was my greatest dream. I did rigorous practice every day with my mother, my American uncle, and a teacher I respected the most in order to make my dream come true. They praised me, “You are a fluent English speaker with good pronunciation and body language.” I got more courage from their support and encouragement, and I started to imagine that I could be a school representative of the speech contest by passing the audition and win at the final English contest. Although I gave my best shot, I lost the audition, and was not able to participate in the contest that I had dreamed of. I realized it is unfeasible to win something regarding English, and I wanted to delete the memory of living in the U.S. This shame and guilt lasted long, throughout my high school and college years, until one miraculous encounter at a café during my stay in Pittsburgh during my summer study-abroad program at Chatham University.

It was a scorching hot day. I found a café in Southside Flats called La Petit Café and Grille. I saw a man sending me a cute smile through the window, so I decided to have lunch there. I ordered a Western Omelet. It was delicious, but I was alone. Two women came into the café and sat next to me. I mustered up the courage to talk to them, “Would you mind if I spent lunch time with you? I am feeling a little bit lonely now.” They said “Absolutely!!” I was cock-a-hoop because they accepted my request. We talked about each other’s country, culture, my artworks, and my life in Michigan. Surprisingly, we talked about Michigan most of the time. And also, I could understand things they shared about their life in the U.S. without having to ask for paraphrasing. We talked for more than one hour, maybe two hours. We were so into the conversation that we forgot all about time. Why could I keep talking for two hours? After I said goodbye to them, I thought in my mind and recognized that it was because I had experienced living in the U.S. I had many memories and knowledge about living in the U.S. to talk about. Before I met them, I felt ashamed of my lifetime in the U.S. because I could not get better grades in speaking and writing English, even though I have an advantage over other students. This shame had been torturing me. However, thanks to this wonderful meeting, I realized I must live life without ever forgetting my feelings of appreciation towards my American life.

Maybe some people have experiences and backgrounds that they are ashamed of. However, I learned that memories have the potential to help you in the future just as my experience in America helped me talk with people for two hours. I now have a changed mindset to appreciate everything that has happened before. If I could go back to talk to my 13-year-old self, I would tell her, “Don’t care too much about your English exam score. Your experience and memories will help you to flourish in the future.”

Trying for Nothing

Trying for Nothing: A Personal Narrative by Habibullah Sorosh

In 2006, I was a second semester student at Kabul University, living in a dormitory. One night a friend told me about the film Osama, an Afghan film, directed by Seddiq Barmak in 2003, and although I had not seen the movie, I felt I knew this story from my own life. Perhaps, it was because I identified with the main character, the bitter story of her life and history, and the sadness of our time. Osama is the story of people who lost their identities under the boots of religious fascism. It is a story of fear. It features an innocent girl who bears the heavy burden of injustice, inequality, and religious extremism. The script is based on a series of painful and real events that all the people of Afghanistan have witnessed and felt.

I asked all my friends if they had this film, but no one did. As I was born into a poor family in a village far from Kabul, I had no extra money to buy anything besides food, but I was starting to obsess about how I could acquire the film.  One day, I decided that instead of going to university I would go to Kote Sangi, a public square where workers came to find work. My plan was to wait for someone to hire me, and then I would use the money to buy the film Osama.

When I got to the square, I saw about 300 people waiting to have someone take them to work. Whenever a car arrived, the workers crowded in as everyone was trying to get work. I also joined these workers and ran to every car that came along, saying loudly, “Do you need a worker, uncle? I will take less pay than the others.”

Several cars came and took with them those who looked big and strong. I was worried that no one might ever use me because I looked weak. After five hours of waiting, a Corolla came. All of the workers ran towards it. A handsome man got out of the car and stared at everyone. His eyes met mine. He approached me and said, “Are you a worker?” I said, in a trembling voice, “Yes.” He said, “Get in the car.” We drove to the wealthy area of Khair Khana, and when we arrived at his luxurious and modern house, he guided me inside. As is tradition, he offered me bread, and as opposed to the poor-quality government bread I was used to at university, this was fresh Paraki Naan, the exact kind my mother would make. It reminded me of her and how much I missed her. As I did not have the bus fare to go back to my village, I had not seen my mother for seven months.

The man suddenly and loudly said to his young children, “Come, Nilab, Susan, and Muhammad.” His children came.

I looked at the man and said, “Sir, can you guide me as to what I should do?” The man stared at me for a bit and then said, “Stand up.” I stood. The man turned to his children and said, “Look carefully. This boy is very young and handsome, but, if you do not study, your destiny will be like his.”

Yes! I was a symbol of laziness and illiteracy for his children.

I felt my throat squeeze with sadness, and I could not hold back my tears. I cried. His wife came to me and raised my head and said, “Do not cry, dear. If you studied, you would not live like this now. You could become an engineer or doctor.”

When I felt the motherly care of that woman, I remembered my own mother, who always said proudly to everyone that would listen, “My dear son Habib, from the first grade until now, always got the first position in school.

In the midst of crying and sobbing, I said, “I got the first ranking in school, and now I am also the first in my class at university.”

They were so ashamed to hear this that they gave me 300 Afghani on the spot, which is one day’s wage for a worker. I said, “I did not do anything. I do not deserve a wage.” But the man hugged me and gave me the money anyway.

I left his house with a strong feeling of relief, and the next day went to the DVD store and bought the film Osama.

Throughout my education, I studied with excruciating difficulties, and I got a good result. I taught as a professor at Kabul University, faculty of Fine Arts for 11 years, and with great effort I collected a collection of DVDs for 15 years, which I used in my teaching and research at Kabul University.

When the Taliban came to Kabul in August 2021, and I quickly burned all the documents I had. I set fire to my literary and artistic documents, and my DVD collection. It may seem silly, but when you feel death close by, you are forced to destroy even your identity. My life is a story of people who lost their identities under the boots of religious fascism.

Bio: Habibullah Sorosh is a professor, screenwriter and playwright whose research includes the history of Afghan cinema, the structural effects of absurdist dramas, and Kazakh historical genre films. Born in the Jaghori district, Ghazni province of Afghanistan Habib received his Bachelor of Cinema and Theater from the Department of Fine Arts at Kabul University and Master of Art Criticism at Kazakh National Academy of Arts T. Zhurgenov. For the past ten years, Habib has been a professor at Kabul University in the Department of Fine Arts and Dramatic Literature. He is currently a Visiting Researcher in the Schools of Drama and Art at Carnegie Mellon University where he is researching the fields of theatre, cinema, and art theory.

Habib Sorosh received a scholarship to study English with the English Language Program at Chatham University in Summer 2022. Below is a picture of him and Dr. Linh Phung, Director of the ELP, during a class outing.

Support for Ukraine

The office of international affairs is deeply concerned about the current situation in Ukraine. We support our students, their families, and friends who are affected by the invasion, and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

How can you help?

Post your support for Ukraine, condemning the war on your social media, #standwithukraine, #notowar

Wear blue and/or yellow colors to show your support for the people of Ukraine.

Write your congressional members request support for Ukraine and her people, including the more than 1-million refugees.

Avoid mis- and disinformation: check the source of the information you are sharing/reading and use only reputable sources.

Resources for those outside of Ukraine:

NAFSA- a resource for international education, has a page for immigration recourses for Ukraine.

Local organizations in Pittsburgh:

December updates from ISSS


OIA Office hours- winter break

During portions of winter break the OIA office will be closed. If you need assistance during these days, send an email to We will periodically check this mailbox. Please plan accordingly.

OIA will be closed December 23, 2012 – January 2, 2022

We will reopen on our normal schedule on January 3, 2022.

OIA will be available during normal business hours (9am -5 pm, Monday through Friday). The OIA office is located in Falk Hall, on the lower level (across from the Chatham copy center).

You can contact us at or by phone at +1 412 365 1388.

 To set up meetings please contact the appropriate individual:


A reminder: ALL F and J students must report to OIA:  

  • Change of address within 10-days. This must be kept up-to-date on your SEVIS record.
    • Changing your address in Portal or MyChatham does not update your SEVIS record. You must update OIA directly.
  • Change of Program- including change of Major, adding a second Major, or a minor.
  • If your program end date is different than what is listed on your I-20. You must report this as soon as possible to update the I-20. * If you will be graduating in December, please double check your I-20!
  • Change of name.
  • If you plan to apply for CPT you must do so BEFORE you begin the internship or training experience. This includes paid and unpaid positions.
  • If you will be graduating, and plan to apply for OPT, please contact OIA as soon as possible. OPT applications can take 2-4 months to process by USCIS.

You can report the above information through email.

Spring Enrollment Reminders: Registration for Spring 2022 is currently open. Please register as soon as possible. If you are not fully registered by add/drop your F1 status may be terminated. If you are eligible for a reduced course load, please contact OIA.

As a reminder in order to maintain your F-1 or J-1 student status, you must be enrolled as full-time student.  This means:

  • If you are an undergraduate- enrolled for at least 12 credits.
  • If you are a graduate student- enrolled for at least 9 credits.

Classes start January 5, 2022. The add/drop deadline is January 12, 2022.

Questions about registration? Check out the FAQ’s on MyChatham.

*If you have a hold on your student account, you will not be eligible to register for Spring classes. Please log into Portal to check your Account status. If there is a hold, take care of it now so that you do not have problems registering for Spring 2022

Other updates:

Please visit the  Chatham Covid-19 Response website, for university updates. Chatham provides weekly updates regarding operations and policies surrounding our covid-19 response.

Are you missing any required immunizations? Make an appointment at the Allegheny County Health Department Immunization Clinic.  The clinic offers immunizations for all the required Chatham vaccines. They accept many insurances and are conveniently located in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Travel updates! Updated as of December 16, 2021. (please read)

Be cautious traveling- both within the United States, and internationally:

At this time, we recommend students limit all non-essential travel, especially if you are not fully vaccinated. If you do need to travel, either internationally or out of Pennsylvania, you are responsible for following local, state, and national guidance. You may have to quarantine, or test for covid-19 before or after travel.

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, travel guidance can change frequently, and students should follow-up with their travel agents, airlines, and the country resources for where they travel.

Refer to guidance from the CDC, US State Department travel advisories and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for specific port-of-entry screening processes, as well as any travel restrictions.

Fully vaccinated travelers are less likely to get and spread COVID-19. However, international travel poses additional risks, and even fully vaccinated travelers might be at increased risk for getting and possibly spreading some COVID-19 variants.

Recently the US government updated their travel policies for entry to the United States, and recommendations for covid-19 testing and quarantine.

All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 1 day before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.

Effective November 8, 2021, all non-immigrant, non-citizen air travelers* to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated for covid-19 and to provide proof of vaccination status prior to boarding an airplane to the United States.

The CDC has also updated their recommendations, and those who are fully-vaccinated will not need to quarantine upon entry to the United States. It is recommended that international travelers take a covid-19 test 3-5 days after arrival in the United States.

If you are not-fully vaccinated, and are eligible for an exception to enter the United States, you will be required to quarantine for at least 7-days.

Chatham University follows CDC guidance, which includes:

Spring Entry Testing 

In alignment with CDC guidance, Chatham will require spring entry term testing for any student or employee (vaccinated or unvaccinated) traveling internationally before coming to campus on 1.3.

If you are traveling internationally over the winter break, please contact Student Health Services to discuss and schedule your spring entry testing prior to coming to campus or on 1.3 or 1.4.

Please remember that Spring 2022 semester begins on January 5, 2022. If you travel internationally or domestically, please be aware of when you need to return for classes.

 Covid-19 Testing resources when departing the United States

You may need a negative covid-19 test in order to engage in international travel. A map of local testing locations is available on the Allegheny County’s website. You should plan testing carefully to make sure you meet any travel requirements to board your flight or enter the destination country. Please check with your travel agent, or the consular operations of your destination country for specific requirements.

Some testing locations may offer free testing, others may charge you. We recommend checking the location for their requirements. You can receive a covid-19 test at many local pharmacies, doctors’ offices, or testing sites.

The Curative van travels around the county weekly offering testing. The van schedule is updated every Monday for the week:


I-20 Travel Signatures

If you will travel internationally, please check page 2 of your current I-20 for a travel signature from a DSO. Travel signatures are good for 1 year. If you do not have a signature, or the one you have is more than a year old, please contact OIA to set up an appointment for a travel signature. Be aware of our upcoming office closure!

Resources for Immigration

The Department of Homeland Security offers a free resource to provide information on the rules and regulations for F-1 students in the United States:

The Department of State provides J-1 Exchange Visitor’s with information on their programs at:


Covid-19 Information:


Center for Disease Control (CDC):

Allegheny County information:

If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

Please check your Chatham email frequently to see all messages from OIA and Chatham University.

Have a wonderful holiday season and see you in the new year!


“Gratitude to Chatham University” by Tamim Adnan


This is Tamim. I’m from Bangladesh. I completed my Bachelor of Science in Building Engineering and Construction Management, from Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (KUET). Now, I’m planning to go for my PhD program in Infrastructures and Environmental Systems at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte (UNC Charlotte). I will work as a graduate research assistant under the supervision of professor Dr. Don Chen. I was a student for English Learning Program at Chatham University in Summer 2020. I joined the program mainly from enthusiasm to improve my English while this program added a new milestone in my academic skill sets. When I completed my applications to US universities, most of them noticed on my transcript what Chatham University awarded me for this program. So, I’m really grateful for being a part of this ELP program at Chatham University.


Firstly, thanks to Dr. Linh Phung and Professor Sylvia for their cooperative teaching and guidance to us. Secondly, thanks to my classmates in the program from Japan, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, when the COVID – 19 pandemic was inflicting everyone mentally, this program helped me to overcome some issues I faced.


Dr. Linh always suggests that I should speak slowly as she thinks the intention of speaking faster lowers the confidence of speaking. I always follow her tips when I need to have any conversations with Professors, Visa Officers, and International Staff. In addition, Miss Sylvia helped me a lot to improve my writing. She always suggested some memorable places, movies and events particularly related to Pittsburgh. I always miss those days and feel good when I remember these moments.


After the ELP program I completed my Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and started to email professors in the US universities targeting the Fall 2021 session. Fortunately, Dr. Don Chen, associate professor, UNC Charlotte, appreciated my potential and offered me to work under his supervision. I will work on the project under the North Carolina Department of Transportation to develop the pavement modeling using breakpoints and pretreatment conditions. I also awarded funding opportunities against my research assistantship to cover my living, health insurance and tuition expenses. Therefore, the journey from KUET to ELP at Chatham to UNC Charlotte is really a cherished move for me.


I always highly recommend the Chatham English Language Program to English learners. If you need any suggestions or help from me, you can contact me over my email It will be a lovely experience if I can help you for any purpose.


Have a Charming Journey at Chatham University!



Tamim Adnan

Ph.D. student

Infrastructure and Environmental Systems

University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

9201 University City Blvd, Charlotte, NC 28223, United States.


Student Artwork

by Najd Alagl, ELP Student, Summer 2021

Please go to our Facebook page to like or comment on her picture as part of a social media competition!

The Brooklyn Bridge – New York

– If love can fade, then so can pain.

Summer Flowers in the Frick Pittsburgh

– Once you choose hope, everything is possible.

Summer Flowers in the Frick Pittsburgh

– The difference between a flower and a weed is a judgment.

Najd’s son admiring a bunny

– They’re sleep-depriving, sticky little monsters that demand snack endlessly and want you to sing same song to them fifty times a day.

But they also think everything you say is hilarious. And when they lay their head on your shoulder everything seems right.

Kids can run your life but also they give you a reason to live when life tries to ruin you.

– I lied and I said I was busy,

I was busy, but not in a way people understand,

I was busy taking deeper breaths,

I was busy silencing irrational thoughts,

I was busy calming a racing heart,

I was busy telling myself “I am okay”,

sometimes this is my busy,

And I will not apologize for it. 

A Day in the Life of a Chatham Student

by Megan Delaney, sophomore, English and International Studies major

An average day at Chatham for me starts around 9:00 am. I am lucky to have not had too many early morning classes, and I like to be up around an hour before my first class begins. After waking up, I shower, get dressed, and brush my teeth. I try to eat breakfast every morning. Usually, it consists of something like cereal or a granola bar, but sometimes I use my blender to make a smoothie or protein shake. After eating, I head up the stairs to campus. Most of my classes take place in Falk or Coolidge Hall, but I have had some science-related classes in Buhl Hall.

Outside Buhl
Outside Falk

A majority of my classes fall under the realm of humanities, so this means a lot of discussion and collaboration in class. Some of these classes include Intro to Women Writers and Shakespeare Survey. After class is over, I might stop at Cafe Rachel for an iced tea. I usually make my own meals in my apartment’s kitchen, but I will also stop at Anderson or get a quick lunch at Cafe Rachel if I see something I like.

Patio of Cafe Rachel

The number of classes I have in one day can vary, and I have had anywhere from one to four classes in a single day. Regardless, I usually have some free time for dinner. Similar to lunch, I often make my own dinner, but sometimes meet with friends at Anderson for a meal. I complete most of my studying and homework in the evenings, but I try to give myself enough time to wind down before sleeping around midnight. On the weekend, my schedule looks quite different, as I utilize those days to spend time with friends, run errands, and explore Pittsburgh. I have spent a lot of time in places like Shadyside, Oakland, and Squirrel Hill, trying out various restaurants and attractions. I find that mostly everything I need at college can be reached by walking or taking a quick bus ride.

Squirrel Hill
Pittsburgh skyline

Although mine is just one experience, I have found that life at Chatham can be what you make it. There are many exciting opportunities on campus and around the city to explore!

Let’s Talk Friday and More

Jan 15: Let’s Talk Friday 1

Time: 9-10am US Eastern Time (Pittsburgh Time)

Time zone Converter:


Cost: Free


Join Chatham University students and students from various countries in a Let’s Talk Friday event. You’ll have the opportunity to make friends, share your goal in 2021, and seek suggestions on overcoming the obstacles to achieve the goal.  Please prepare for these two questions in advance.

1. In 1-2 minutes, please tell us your name and three words or phrases that describe your background and why those words/phrases are important to you.

2. In 2 minutes, talk about a goal that you’d like to achieve in 2021 and what obstacles may stop you from achieving the goal.

Please be ON TIME as you may not be admitted to the meeting if you are not on time.

Spring 2021 English Language Program updates!

The Chatham University English Language Program recorded a short video about the Spring 2021 semester, and the options to study virtually or in-person.

If you are not able to join us for in-person classes, you can still register for the virtual English Language Program for Spring 2021!

Please apply by January 4 to join Spring 2021 virtual classes!

We will also have options to join the English Language Program to study a 7.5 week intensive course from March 4- April 23. Please contact us for more details!

Questions? Contact us at!



IIE and NAFSA events for International Education Week 2020


The Open Doors 2020 Data Release were released on November 16. Watch the VIDEO RELEASE here. Representatives from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education released findings from the 2020 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.

Thursday, Nov 19
Now More than Ever: DEI in Global Programming, 11:00am ET

IIE’s commitment to diversity and inclusion has been central to our mission and we continue to practice and reaffirm that commitment in our programming throughout the world. Join a panel of IIE team members from across our global offices moderated by Mary Karam McKey, Head of IIE’s Corporate & Foundation Programs. Panelists will explore regional considerations around DEI as well as incorporating it into program design and implementation. Panelists and locations include:

  • Ethiopia Abebe, Lead, Ethiopia and Sub Saharan Africa (Addis Ababa)
  • Jonathan Lembright, Head, Southeast Asia (Bangkok)
  • Nichole Johnson, Director, Private Sector Program Development (NYC)
  • Evgenia Valuy, Lead, Evaluation and Learning (NYC)
  • Michelle Pickard, Director, Gilman International Scholarship Program (Houston)
  • Akta Sawhney, Senior Program Specialist (New Delhi)

Friday, Nov 20
Now More than Ever: Cultivating Leaders to Address Global Challenges, 11:00am ET

Exchange alumni contribute to society in positive ways and, shaped by their lived experiences, become leaders who are working to address the world’s most pressing challenges. Michelle Dass Pickard, IIE’s Director of the Gilman International Scholarship Program, will be joined by alumni of various leadership development and exchange programs who will discuss the need for these programs in light of current challenges, the importance of DEI in programs, and considerations to ensure that the benefit of the exchange experience does not end with the individual participant.


Cost: $89 for non-members

More information here:

Monday, November 16

Our Future: The Next Four Years, 1:00pm- 2:30pm ET
Examine the outcome of the 2020 U.S. election and how it will impact international education, diplomacy and engagement with the world.

Tuesday, November 17

Social Justice & International Education: Exploring the Intersections, 10:00am- 1:00pm ET

Wednesday, November 18

NAFSA Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization Presidential Panel and Award Recognition, 1:00pm-2:30pm ET
Recognize the achievements of the 2020 NAFSA Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization winners and join us for a live Presidential Panel.

Thursday, November 19

Perspectives on Engaging Today’s Students, 1:00pm ET

Friday, November 20

Fall 2020 NAFSA Research Symposium: A Critical Discussion of Theories, Methodologies, and Practices in International Education, 9:30am-1:30pm ET