Pirates around the world

Pirate Nation is home to all kinds of people. We draw people in from all over North Carolina, 47 other states and 99 countries around the world. Study abroad is an opportunity offered to students here at ECU, but we also have a program for international students to receive an education with us. 

Senior finance major Faisal Abouelhassan chose ECU to earn his degree. “I like to think of myself as a legacy here — my uncle graduated from ECU as an international student in the late 1980s and so did his daughter just recently in 2016,” Abouelhassan said. He added that other schools in the U.S. and the United Kingdom were on his radar, but ECU really stood out to him. The Office of Global Affairs would send regular emails to check in and offer assistance if needed. “What really differentiated ECU from other schools was the positive impact it had not only on its student population, but also the local communities around ECU. ECU, its faculty and its students truly embodied what the school stood for: to serve,” Abouelhassan said. 

Originally from Egypt and Qatar, Abouelhassan recalled a couple culture shocks he experienced when he first began his classes at ECU. “One of the biggest culture shocks I had when coming to ECU was the informality in classes. Let me explain: I had initially thought that since we would be interacting with faculty members in the classroom, we should be dressed fairly professionally,” Abouelhassan said. He was surprised to see his peers dressed in shorts or sweatpants instead of button-down shirts and jeans. He also mentioned that it was different to have waiters and waitresses split the bill up before it was brought out to the table. “Back home in Qatar, my friends and I would always fight for who was going to pay the bill,” Abouelhassan said. 

Assistant Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs Jon Rezek spoke about what he enjoys about working with our international students. “It’s great to see our international students meet new people and interact socially. We want to make sure students feel like they belong here, that ECU is welcoming and this program has helped to build that on campus,” Rezek said. For example, Abouelhassan was given the opportunities to attend Pirate football games and serve on the Student Government Association. Additionally, Dr. Rezek also mentioned that he has enjoyed weekly gatherings called International Coffee Hour with the international students. 

There is an Intensive English program for students who come to ECU and need a little more help with their English speaking and writing abilities. Before beginning the program, you must take a test to gauge where you’re at, much like other language courses offered at ECU. There are three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. The program holds class four days a week and gives over twenty hours of instruction and practice each week. Students participate in weekly conversation hours and speech lab. This is a great opportunity for our international students who may have been hesitant to apply based on their English language skills.

Being in a new place can be scary yet a significant opportunity for growth. “It’s really rewarding to see students come into an unfamiliar setting in a new and exciting place and succeed,” Rezek said. Many in-state students say that Pirate Nation has always felt like home, and we want it to feel that way for everyone. “I have to note that ever since I had set foot on campus, I knew that I was home,” Abouelhassan said.


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