PITTSBURG - Soon, Humas Sindhu will be on his way home to Pakistan. He’s been at Pittsburg State University for just a semester, but it’s been enough time to give him a different understanding of America. Sindhu hopes his presence here has helped Americans have a new understanding of Pakistan, as well.

“The people here are quite friendly,” Sindhu said. “That’s not what I expected from watching Hollywood films. I also didn’t see the racism that I expected, based on the films.”

Sindhu came to Pittsburg State as part of the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD), an international educational and cultural exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Students in the program come to the U.S. for just a semester. Like other exchange programs, UGRAD requires students to study and take classes. Unlike other programs, however, UGRAD also requires students to earn a “cultural passport” by volunteering for community service and immersing themselves in the cultural and civic life of the community.

Sindhu has been busy since he arrived in Pittsburg, which is a vastly different place from the city of 10 million he calls home. He’s volunteered at the Lord’s Diner, helped with service projects like the Big Event, attended sporting events, visited museums, attended a City Commission meeting where he met the mayor, and much more. He’s also given presentations about Pakistan and participated in the International Food and Culture Fair.

“I’ve learned a lot,” said Sindhu, who had never traveled outside his native Pakistan before coming to PSU. “I learned not to judge people until you talk to them. I learned patience, tolerance and independence.”

Sindhu said he hopes those Americans he’s met have a different view of Pakistan because of their interaction with him.

“The media paints Pakistan in a very negative way,” Sindhu said. “There are misperceptions that Pakistan and India are at war and that Pakistanis are all about terrorism. We are against terrorism. We are a peaceful country and we just want peace.”

An economics major, Sindhu has high hopes of making a difference when he returns to Pakistan and he believes he’s learned some things on this exchange that will help him do that.

"I have a strong interest in development economics,” Sindhu said. “What I noticed here is how small communities plan and initiate projects that deal with hunger, poverty and other related problems. Observing and participating in different activities has enhanced my leadership qualities and I plan to initiate such small projects in my community in near future. You have to start small to accomplish something big.”

Sindhu will return to Pakistan at the close of the spring semester, which ends at PSU on Friday, May 12.