Many current and former international students at Western Illinois University may be familiar with Amin Akhtar’s friendly smile. Akhtar—who is from Iran and was, until last December, an international student himself—served as a graduate assistant in Western’s Center for International Studies while studying in Western’s School of Computer Sciences.
“In that role, I participated in six orientations for new international students. Each of them was an amazing experience. Helping other international students each semester was more than a job or a volunteer work for me,” he explained. “I would like to especially thank to Ms. Dana Vizdal [assistant director in the Center for International Studies], who gave me this chance to be a leader for the orientations.”
Akhtar finished his master’s of science degree in computer science in December. Recently, he shared with me a bit about some of his academic experiences and opportunities he had while he was a WIU student.
Q: How did you learn about Western Illinois University? Why did you decide to apply to and attend Western?
Amin: After considering different universities, I came across information about the School of Computer Sciences at Western. When I saw the profile of the professors and their fields of interest, I was sure I wanted to choose Western.
Q: What do you hope to do with your degree?
Amin: I am planning to work as a software engineer in one of the consulting companies. Finding a job in the computer science field is not that hard, especially when you have a computer science degree from WIU!!!
Q: How did you adjust to your new home as someone who had never traveled to the U.S. before?
Amin: The adjusting process from another culture to the U.S. culture was not that easy. All international students have culture shock when they come here, and I was not an exception. Making friends and not being alone was the best way for me to adjust myself within the new environment.
Q: Who was your favorite instructor and/or course and why?
Amin: My favorite professor and advisor was undoubtedly Dr. Martin Maskarinec [professor of computer science]. Dr. Maskarinec was so patient and helpful all the time, and I always used his advice. My favorite courses were my database courses, because I love working with data.
Q: Tell me about one or two of your most memorable experiences as a Western student.
Amin: The best moment of my life was when I got the news about being accepted as a teaching assistant in the School of Computer Sciences. Other memorable experiences include meeting my girlfriend at Western Illinois University and learning more about American culture.