by Alexandra DeMarco
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s International House, or “home away from home” for anyone who seeks it, offers a host of programming for international students at UT. Recent UT graduate Ahoud Algargoush is one such international student who spent her time as an undergraduate heavily involved with the International House.
Algargoush moved to Knoxville from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, where she attended Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University. She browsed through a number of cities and states before moving to the U.S. but ultimately landed in Knoxville for two reasons: the city’s sense of community and the Haslam College of Business at UT.
Initially, Algargoush began her studies at the English Language Institute in January 2018 and studied there through December, before transitioning to the main UT campus as a business student.
As an ELI student, Algargoush embarked on trips to the International House on UT’s main campus for various events and to volunteer as a tutor during Arabic language practice sessions. These trips inspired her to pursue a job at the International House, and soon after starting her undergraduate degree at Haslam College, she began working at the I-House as a student assistant.
“Since I was at the English Language Institute, working at the International House was my goal,” Algargoush said. “I was like, I can’t wait to go to the university so I can work there.”
While an International House employee, Algargoush had the opportunity to learn about a variety of cultures.
“The thing that I really enjoyed at the International House was meeting different students from different countries and different cultures,” Algargoush said. “Also, I feel like just organizing that Culture Night, the international programs, was really fun for me.”
It was also her transition to UT’s main campus that led Algargoush to join the International House’s Friendship Program. Designed with the goal of helping international students feel at home abroad and introducing them to UT’s campus, the Friendship Program pairs international students with domestic students in hopes of establishing lifelong friendships.
During her time in the program, including one semester where she studied online from Saudi Arabia, Algargoush was paired with two different domestic students who she still keeps in touch with on social media.
“It’s very hard for (domestic students) to understand my accent, so I found out that the Friendship Program just helps me to get in touch with domestic students, just understand American culture more, just understand the other programs and activities the university has,” Algargoush said.
Algargoush encourages domestic students, who may be unfamiliar with the International House, to explore all that UT’s international programming has to offer.
“Once they get involved with the community, they will really enjoy it,” Algargoush said. “Even their experience in Knoxville — it will be just the best thing they will ever have.”
Algargoush adjusted to life in Knoxville, made some great friends at Haslam College and grew to love the natural environment of East Tennessee. She spent much of her free time as a student hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or kayaking, often with campus organization RUF International.
Nearing the end of her undergraduate degree, she realized: she wasn’t ready to leave.
So, Algargoush, who graduated in December 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in business analytics, applied for and was accepted into Haslam’s Master of Science in Business Analytics program. She’ll begin the 10-month program in July, alongside some of her friends from her time as an undergraduate.
“I just want to study more about business analytics,” Algargoush said. “I feel like the program that Haslam has is really interesting. … It would make my degree way stronger and might even help me to get a better job in the future.”
Algargoush has sage advice for international students beginning their journey at UT: don’t be scared to embrace the opportunities around you.
“Don’t be afraid,” Algargoush said. “I know it’s really hard to get involved in these activities, especially the first time.”
To learn more about the International House, visit https://ihouse.utk.edu/ or follow the I-House on Instagram, @utkinternational, or Facebook, @UTInternational.
Jason Moody (865-974-5752, firstname.lastname@example.org)