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From playing ultimate frisbee to eating Amish food, this Tunisian student is living life to the fullest in the US

Shawnee State University
Tunisian Ghaida Bouchaala has been meeting new people and trying new things as an international students in the US. Source: Ghaida Bouchaala

Ghaida Bouchaala was one out of 28 students from a pool of 8,000 applicants to be selected for the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship. The 23-year-old will be majoring in Business Administration at Shawnee State University.

What makes the experience even sweeter is that it’s also this Tunisian student’s first time outside her country — and she’s soaking up every moment. From learning to play ultimate frisbee — and earning the nickname “frisbee beast” — to trying new cuisines, including Pakistani, Chinese, Mexican and Amish food — she’s truly living life to the fullest in the US.

We find out more about what led her to apply for the scholarship and what she loves about living in Portsmouth, Ohio:

Shawnee State University

Ghaida Bouchaala is a Thomas Jefferson Scholarship scholar at Shawnee State University. Source: Ghaida Bouchaala

How did you ended up at Shawnee State University?

If you’re wondering how a girl like me from across the Atlantic got to the US and specifically Shawnee State University, it’s through one of the most selective and competitive scholarships for Tunisians. This would be the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship

This scholarship was one of the first goals I set for myself as unis in the US tend to be quite expensive. I, however, wasn’t given the choice to choose a uni as scholars are randomly placed but I did choose my area of specialisation.

I decided to study business administration and management because the US is a leading power in the world’ largest businesses. With a background in IT, specialising in business will help me bring an American business perspective back to Tunisia.

What about living in Portsmouth? What are your three favourite things about Ohio?

First, the people. Second, the people. Third, the people. My favourite things about Ohio are the people, the educational system (having the ability to choose my courses, professors and schedule), and the nature — specifically hiking spots.

For you, what would be a “perfect” day in Ohio?

A day where I get to meet new people and make new friends because this means new opportunities. Also, it would be going to the gym, read, and having lunch with my friends. 

Her favourite thing about living in Portsmouth? The people. Source: Ghaida Bouchaala

What’s the local food compared to home like? Share your most and least favourite.

I miss food from home but I’m definitely adapting to the US. Thanks to the diversity here, I got to taste for the first time Pakistani, Chinese, Mexican and Amish food. I also tried American doughnuts for the first time and I loved it. 

My favourite is boiled corn with butter and blueberry muffins and my least favourite is anything with a strong taste of cinnamon.

Ghaida Bouchaala is grateful to be surrounded by amazing people who serve as an excellent support system. Source: Ghaida Bouchaala

What advice would you give students who want to study abroad in the US?

I would recommend getting involved in the community as much as possible. Join clubs and do community service. Also, from a personal perspective, travelling within the US as a student on a budget is so much fun. 

Try to maintain good grades to let your professors know you’re there and active. It will help with your experience in career services at unis in the US. 

What do you feel most grateful for now?

Right now, for the people around me. The support and help they’ve shown me in good and hard times make the US feel like home to me. I feel very optimistic and hopeful for the future. 

Ghaida Bouchaala hiking in the US. Source: Ghaida Bouchaala

Give us a fun fact about yourself.

I learned to play ultimate frisbee when I first arrived and now, my American friends call me a “frisbee beast”. I’m also very competitive at almost any game and I like to be the winner.

Ghaida Bouchaala experiencing fall at Portsmouth, Ohio. Source: Ghaida Bouchaala

Pick one:

Rice or bread

Coffee or tea

Rewind button or pause button for your time in Ohio

Super strength or super speed

Drive or walk in Ohio

Summer or spring in Ohio

Cafe or park

Stay in or go out

Clubbing or hiking