Graduate School

Inspirational journey of an international graduate student to Harrisonburg


 
Erjona Gashi

SUMMARY: Erjona Gashi, a Kosovo native and Communication & Advocacy graduate student at James Madison University is an inspirational example of a student who is facing many challenges, but is also having a rewarding, fun, but intimidating experience.


By Brooke Z. Graham, Strategic Leadership doctoral student

Imagine leaving your family, friends, and life as you know it; you travel thousands of miles to a new country to earn your graduate degree. Imagine the hardships and triumphs of facing a different culture and speaking a different language; consider the barriers you’ll encounter and the new adventures you’ll experience. Feel how intimidating yet fun and rewarding your life will be!
Erjona Gashi, a Kosovo native and Communication & Advocacy graduate student at James Madison University is an inspirational example of a student who is facing many challenges, but is also having a rewarding, fun, but intimidating experience. I sat down to talk with Erjona about her experience and her journey to JMU.

What brought you to JMU?
I worked at the Kosovo Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, where I learned about JMU’s graduate programs. I have always felt strongly about communication and wanted to seek further education. I applied to the program, but was concerned because only one student would be selected. I won the Madison Vision Scholarship for the Advancement of Kosovo and that was one of the happiest moments of my entire life!

What is and has been your experience as an international student at JMU?
My experience has been very positive. I think I had quite an easy transition to the JMU culture and I felt welcomed here. All the people I met, the professors, and my cohort were warm and supportive which all helped me feel less foreign. I was amazed by the campus and all the resources available to students, resources such as the Student Success Center. I felt grateful to be here.

What are some of the differences between Harrisonburg and your hometown and how did/do you adjust to those differences?
Harrisonburg and Prishtina, are very different from each other. Everything is very scattered in Harrisonburg. There are very few coffee shops which close very early in the day (7pm). In Prishtina, everything is walking-distance, so I used to walk everywhere. Prishtina is very noisy and dynamic. Harrisonburg is much quieter, and while I live close by JMU, nobody really walks around here.

In Prishtina, I lived with my family and always was surrounded by friends. When I first moved to Harrisonburg, I felt lonely. But, I started to hang out more with my cohort and I made some good friends and that helped a lot. I think finding community is very important. I have come to appreciate Harrisonburg for the quiet town it is. I like the lack of air pollution and noise pollution. I like how supportive and collaborative people are. I also appreciate how the people here care so much about their community.

What do you like about JMU?
I love the culture at JMU and how people always try to help each other. I love the campus and all the resources that are available to students. Most importantly, I love that JMU’s message is “being the change”. The focus is not just on the local community but also having a global impact.

How will this program and your degree from JMU impact your future plans?
I have become so fond of my program. This is a very challenging program with lots of readings. However, throughout the program I have gained so much knowledge and I feel more confident. I have gotten better at reading professional and academic books and articles.

Getting a Master’s degree in Communication and Advocacy from JMU will definitely give me more opportunities to advocate for marginalized groups in Kosovo. I want to work as a university professor and have an impact. I am very passionate about education and women empowerment. I plan to go back and work with civil society, help raise the quality of Higher Education system and support women to become more educated and more independent.

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