Pakistani student among winners of video contest documenting semester of study at American colleges and universities

Salem, Va. - The video opens with slow background music, while images of Amreek Kataria's journey at Roanoke College fade in and out. Kataria hugs Rooney, the College's mascot, plays bingo with a crowd of students in Bast Gym and dons a hardhat while working at a Habitat for Humanity construction site.

As the tempo quickens, more pictures flash of Kataria making brownies for the first time and posing at U.S. landmarks, such as the White House and the Statue of Liberty.

Kataria, who is in his fourth year of medical school at Dow University of Health Sciences in Karachi, Pakistan, has spent the past few months as a student at Roanoke. A video documentary of his time at the College's Salem campus is one of three winners in a competition of about 30 Pakistani college students.

Kataria, 22, is soaking up American culture and education, but his mission at Roanoke is two-fold.

He is one of 95 students from Pakistan who are taking part in the Global Undergraduate Exchange (Global UGRAD) program, which is part of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program seeks to quell stereotypes of Pakistan and improve relations with the United States by paving the way for Pakistani students to study at American colleges and universities.

Roanoke College is one of the program's 61 partner schools.

The Global UGRAD program recently chose Kataria's video as one of the best three submitted by Pakistani students enrolled in fall semester courses at U.S. colleges and universities. When students return to Pakistan, they will give presentations about their experiences in the United States and show their videos on college campuses and in small towns throughout the country.

"The media is not sharing the true picture of Pakistan," said Kataria, explaining that the nation emphasizes gender equality and religious freedom.

He said he considers himself "a bridge" connecting the United States and Pakistan.

Rebecca Armstrong, an administrative assistant at Roanoke and Kataria's host "mother," said getting to know Kataria has been eye-opening.

"They love life just like we do," said Armstrong, during her video interview. "We sort of always think of Pakistan and Iraq and Iran as being all the same, but they're not."

Kataria took English, psychology and U.S. history classes at Roanoke. He said he was surprised that the College's professors interact so closely with students and often meet with them individually to discuss classwork.

Celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving also were highlights for Kataria, as well as the first time he made brownies and mowed a lawn, all activities that are featured in his video.

"This program has changed my life," he said.

Kataria was born in Machka, Pakistan, where he said he sat on the ground during elementary school classes because there were no desks for students.

He plans to return to the United States for his medical residency program after he earns his degree next year at Dow.

But before leaving for Pakistan on Dec. 15, Kataria, who wants to be a cardiologist, has arranged to observe several Carilion Clinic physicians for three days. He said he is eager to compare U.S. doctors' work with that of physicians in Pakistan.

Roanoke College, a classic liberal arts college in Salem, Virginia, combines firsthand learning with valuable personal connections in a beautiful, undergraduate setting. Roanoke is one of just seven percent of colleges nationwide with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation's oldest and most prestigious honor society. The Princeton Review lists Roanoke as the 18th most beautiful campus in its "Best 376 Colleges" 2012 guidebook.

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Released: December 10, 2012
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