Earning an education across the globe is challenging in plenty of ways. From being far away from family and friends to adjusting to language and cultural differences, international students have enough to think about in a normal year. But with a pandemic in the mix, obstacles that once seemed difficult became major concerns for many who chose to study at Western Michigan University from abroad.
Thankfully, many international students were able to meet basic needs through the support of WMU and the Kalamazoo community. Ajjay Amulraaj was one such student. Having recently completed his MBA in Kalamazoo through Western’s partnership with Christ University in India, he says graduation may not have been possible without assistance from the community.
“The pandemic was the time I made my emotional connection with Kalamazoo,” Ajjay says. “It was one of the most difficult times in the entire world and was even more difficult for international students.”
With travel restrictions in place and no ability to earn an income, Ajjay feared that he wouldn’t be able to pay for his rent, utilities and groceries, nor could he return home. “But Kalamazoo has always been a welcoming city,” he says, “and WMU and community members jointly helped international students to a great extent.”
Through donation programs organized by faculty, staff, students and local residents, more than 400 international students—including Ajjay—were able to stay in Kalamazoo and complete their courses. Now, he wants to pay that kindness forward.
Ajjay recently took a position as senior analyst, R&D IT, with Zoetis, a global animal healthcare company based in Kalamazoo. He hopes to contribute to the local community by living and working in the city and reciprocating the generosity that was shown to him during such a difficult time. “I love the people in Kalamazoo, and I would love to continue to grow and work at Zoetis,” he says.
Despite all of the challenges of the past year, Ajjay says his MBA experience through WMU and Christ University has been incredibly rewarding. “The best part about this program is that you get to learn from professors from different nationalities, which truly opens you up,” he says.
“My concentration was in computer information systems and many of the courses incorporated tools and technologies that are very relevant to the current world. Also, the flexibility has been a great advantage. The MBA helped me improve the skills required for both technical and managerial roles, becoming a more competent professional who can wear many hats.”
Ajjay adds that people like Dr. Tim Palmer, interim chair and professor of management, his professors at the Haworth College of Business and his coworkers at Zoetis are “amazing.” He says, “The best thing about Kalamazoo is the people. The individuals I have interacted with have always been warm and understanding and never made me feel different. I always felt like I was one of them, and they helped me stay positive during difficult times. This truly feels like a home away from home.”