GradIPALs 2021

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CLASS OF 2021


Share Culture, Make a Friend We celebrate another cohort of IPALs who live out our core values and spread our mission throughout their UC journey. These students demonstrate grit, perseverance, and kindness as they overcome hurdles and walk closer to their goals and dreams. As they reflected on their entire UC journey, we had the privilege to listen to and record some of their favorite memories, words of wisdom, and most importantly, their inspiring stories. Enjoy reading!



AARON BUCKLEY Bachelor's in Neuroscience From the United States


“People are going to tell you to put yourself out there and join social organizations. Go for it, but don’t overwhelm yourself. You aren’t going to miss the boat by not joining everything in the first semester. It’s okay to let yourself breathe.” Getting lost on campus on the first day of class in 2018 turned out to be a blessing in disguise. With the goals of learning Spanish and finding like-minded friends, Aaron coincidentally found the IPALs and stayed with the group throughout his UC journey. He loved witnessing his international friends experience the American proms that UC International held annually at a place that is home to him—the Newport Aquarium. Having taken a few gap years before re-enrolling into college, Aaron figured his interest in learning about and connecting with people through clinical research and medicine. While he didn’t expect much coming back to school, UC surprised the Cincinnati native with a transformational experience through a cohesive education where he gained a breadth of knowledge from different disciplines and increased cultural awareness. Aaron plans to go to medical school in the near future and aspires to engage with the community and give back to future generations in whichever role he serves.


ANDY CHENG Master's in Professional Writing From the United States


“Any kindness you show can go a long way. Just being there for someone can really make a difference.” Originally from Taiwan but growing up in Texas, Andy followed his undergraduate professor’s footsteps and came to UC to pursue his master’s in professional writing. He got associated with the IPALs because of his Graduate Assistant position at UC International. As he was still adjusting to life in Cincinnati, Andy found a group of friends within the IPALs that he could look up to. They made him feel welcomed and belonged, and also helped dispel his prejudices. In the past two years, Andy was engaged in a variety of organizations, from coaching swimming teams to working at the Academic Writing Center. The enlightening experience here at Cincinnati made him fall in love with academia. And we’re lucky to keep Andy with us as he’s enrolling into our Ph.D. program in Rhetoric and Composition. #NextLivesHere


BIANTY GOMPERTS Bachelor's in Biochemistry From Curaçao


“I learned to make myself known. I’d talk to every professor that teaches me and put a name to the face. UC gave me the confidence to work in labs and pursue the career I love.” Coming from a tiny island in the Caribbean, Bianty came to the US to follow her passion for science, parting ways with her friends who mostly attend college in Europe. Without knowing anyone when she first moved to Cincinnati, Bianty forced herself to make friends, one following another, until she attended an IPALs event—where she felt welcomed. That’s how we got to keep her around—she wanted to become an IPAL and make other international students feel welcomed. The independent, confident young lady we are speaking to today credits her growth to UC. Bianty had the opportunity to work with CREW (Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife) at the Cincinnati Zoo to help secure a positive future for endangered species. She also gained her confidence working in labs through her teaching assistant position. After graduation, Bianty plans to work in a biochemistry lab as a lab assistant before heading to vet school in Europe.


BIJETA PRADHAN Bachelor's in Biochemistry From Nepal


“The best thing about UC and its greatest gift for me was being able to meet people from different backgrounds. My best friends are from all over the world!” Bijeta joined a lot of social clubs during her freshman year— Harry Potter Club, Candle Club, Anime Club, Fraternity Chemistry Club, Korean Culture and Dance Club...you name it! Completing college within three years, she knew from the beginning that making connections and getting involved in communities will make her life easier here. She advises others to join clubs on campus according to their interests to make friends. Bijeta’s proactiveness on campus led her to find out about the IPALs. She likes that IPALs’ events are always refreshing and diverse for everyone to join. When asked about the one thing that she wishes she knew during freshman year, the cheerful girl responded, “I wish I didn’t forget about the application deadline and had joined IPALs earlier.” Bijeta plans on working in a pharmaceutical lab as a research associate for a year and enroll in graduate school afterward.


ELYSE KU Bachelor's in Psychology From Taiwan


“I never asked for help and I thought it was my problem and that I need to figure it out by myself. But that’s not true. Professors at UC were very encouraging and they changed my mindset towards education.” She was considered a troublemaker. Her Taiwanese teachers said she wouldn’t be able to make it to college. But coming to UC liberated her from the past beliefs. Elyse found her true passion in psychology through the exploratory program and worked her way to receiving the Doris Twitchell Allen Award (Outstanding Female Senior) and getting admitted into graduate school. Elyse pushed herself out of her comfort zone to get as much as she can in the past four years. She founded the Taiwanese Student Association and organized many events for fellow Taiwanese students. She joined TEDx and IPALs to expand her network, all while working on her Mandarin YouTube channel to raise ADHD awareness and break its stigma in Asian countries. Battling language and cultural barriers were not easy, but she has a firm goal in mind: to help others. Elyse will pursue her graduate studies in Arizona. She aspires to be a professor or have her own research lab in the future.


JASON DSOUZA Master's in Aerospace Engineering From India


“People in Cincinnati are really friendly. Even though I was away from home, I felt being a part of something here. I never felt like an outsider. The US is a country that you’d fall in love with.” As a kid, Jason always wanted to be a pilot. He loves stargazing and playing the guitar. Fascinated by the American culture, Jason followed his dream to come to UC in Fall 2018 and studied Aerospace Engineering. Jason is a big soccer fan. He vividly recalls how excited he was upon his first visit to UC. All the soccer games he had attended remain his favorite memories here—he enjoyed the atmosphere of being in the stadium and cheering on the teams with others. "My UC journey is complete. I did everything that I wanted.” Jason is grateful to have involved in Catholic Bearcat, IPALs, and Hyperloop UC and met friends from diverse backgrounds. He is also thankful for others’ support as he found a co-op during the pandemic, which ultimately helped him secure his full-time job in New Hampshire. Jason aspires to work with NASA one day.


LARA EIDAM Bachelor's in Criminal Justice From Luxembourg


“I wouldn’t trade my UC experience for the world. I followed my dream to come here and I don’t regret a single bit of it.” Coming from a little European country that shares the same size as Cincinnati, Lara first visited the Queen City in 2016 for her high school’s exchange program, and since then she just never looked back. Following her dream to come to the US to study Criminal Justice, plus completing the Police Academy in three years, Lara plans to continue gaining experience in law enforcement after graduation. “I cannot imagine doing anything else. I like helping people and I want to be the person people call when they need somebody... And with the recent incidents across the US, I wanted to do this even more to show others it can be done in a right way.” A giver at heart, Lara hopes all international students know that “you are not alone. Somebody else either has the same question or has the answer ready for you. Be brave enough to reach out.” Lara sees IPALs as the safety net for international students, where she can be herself and not feel judged, and got all her questions answered here.


MAÏLYS TERRIER Bachelor's in Computer Science From the United States


“IPALs is UC’s biggest gift for me. It really is the home that I can always go back to, and no one could take away all the friendships I earned here.” Maïlys is a French American growing up with a ton of international friends and experiences. She recalled how the IPALs attempted to make a snow tubing chain at a winter retreat and the group was speaking in 15 languages all at once to explain the instruction. That moment amazed her and remained her favorite memory with the IPALs. Maïlys had the opportunities to take up leadership and mentor positions at Women in Tech, Engineering Diplomats, CEAS Tribunal, and International Co-op Student Association—all of which made her realize she really enjoys helping others and aspires to be a project manager. After completing five co-ops with three different companies of all sizes, both locally and internationally, Maïlys admitted that some co-ops helped her realize what she doesn’t want to do. Yet she also witnessed how effective leaders bring a culturally diverse team together with their brilliant language skills and that inspired her to do the same in the future. An animal lover and foodie at heart, Maïlys is unafraid to explore a completely different field mid-career and she (already!) has her retired life all figured out!


MARCUS ANG Bachelor's in Chemistry and Business Analytics From Malaysia


“Don’t be afraid of new things and changes. You’ll be surprised with who you can be.” Originally from Malaysia, Marcus transferred to UC from Oregon in Fall 2019 and embarked on a life-changing journey here. Marcus describes UC as a hub of opportunities—for a good career, for self-discovery, and for making lifelong friends. When we were interviewing Marcus, he had a long ponytail. When asked, he explained he did it as a rebellious act in the beginning as he couldn’t have long hair back home, but now it has transformed into a noble deed—he’s growing his hair long enough for donation. Marcus is very serious with his academic research, but IPALs has been the place where he gets to show his “crackhead energy,” the place where he gets to be carefree and fun. Inspired by his labmates, Marcus is going to California for graduate school. Marcus aspires to work in the energy field to figure out a way to generate electricity in a more efficient way and provide it to less fortunate places.


NICHOLAS ZHENG Bachelor's in Marketing From the United States


“I wish I joined IPALs earlier. It’s only when I started stepping out of my comfort zone and reaching out for opportunities that I realized someone would always be there to meet me.” Growing up in a Chinese family in Cincinnati, attending UC was a no-brainer for Nick. Being surrounded by ambitious friends and having the opportunities to explore different programs and organizations changed Nick entirely. Realizing the importance of networking and having fun in college, other than studying, Nick transformed from an introvert to an active member of PandaCats and IPALs in the past few years. He gained solid skills in time management, event planning, and community engagement, all while making good use of his creativity and marketing knowledge. To Nick, IPALs is a wholesome place where he gets to connect with students from diverse cultures but with shared values. It inspires him to adopt a global citizen mindset. He hopes to travel and work in multiple countries in the future.


PONARAVIND MUTHAIAH Master's in Aerospace Engineering From India


“The start is always tough. Think about why you came here and take advantage of the opportunities that you didn’t have back home.” Waking up to the quiet neighborhood in Cincinnati felt weird; Catching up with the curriculum in the first semester was quite a struggle; Opening up to students from 25+ countries was not easy for a shy person—but somehow Ponaravind made it through. From participating in UC Robotics, Fly UC, and Hyperloop UC, to competing in hackathons and winning the promposal at UC International’s prom, Ponaravind’s engagement on campus in the past three years amazed us. “I just didn’t know if I’d have a second chance to try all these things.” And that explains why he took every single chance to be a part of something he’s interested in, despite the heavy research workload as a graduate student. Ponaravind hasn’t gone home for almost three years now, and he advises students to visit home during vacations instead of focusing on coursework or research. “Taking breaks is important,” said the autonomy engineer with an interest in politics.


PRUDHVIRAJ NAIDU Bachelor's in Computer Science From India


“College taught me how to speak my mind and now no one can stop me.” Prudhvi earned diverse experiences during his time at UC. From working on levitating vehicles at Hyperloop UC and analyzing brain waves in the UC Medicine Lab, to roaming the streets of Singapore during co-op abroad, Prudhvi found himself and many friends along the way. Fitting into the US culture was a challenge, but he found a home where he least expected it. The IPALs became his home, his solace amongst different cultures. He loves the open and accepting space the IPALs created, in which people come, connect, and discover each other's culture and the world in a unique way.


SAGAR TIWARI Bachelor's in Mechanical Engineering From India


“College gives you a lot of chances to fall and get back up. UC provides us with good exposure to people from everywhere; It’s like a test run for the real world.” Most people focus on his eye-catching Tesla swag and his ability to socialize with almost anyone, but few learn about how he overcame all the struggles to get there. Speaking broken English and not understanding American jokes, Sagar wasn’t confident in himself as a freshman. But through his relentless campus engagement, from joining the Astronomy Club and SOL (Student Orientation Leaders), to working with UC International and RED (Resident Education and Development), Sagar found his place. He also found “home” in the judgment-free IPALs, where he thinks “everyone is weird in their own way.” The lowest moment hit when Sagar lost his third co-op one week before the start day. He almost gave up and went back to India, but he didn’t; He participated in UC Hyperloop and made his way to Tesla. Yet he didn’t stop there; He wanted to give back. In his final year, Sagar founded the Bearcat Electric Vehicle team and the Bearcats into Tech speaker series to increase talented UC students’ exposure to Silicon Valley. Sagar will pursue his full-time position in Tesla and continue to spread happiness wherever he goes.


TOSHA BAPAT Bachelor's in Computer Science From India


“Don’t look at college as a path; Look at it as an open field. There are endless possibilities here." Five years ago when Tosha got admitted to UC—the only university she applied to in the US, she wouldn’t have imagined the growth that UC brings to her. From building her own standards and priorities to finding her own values, UC was the perfect playground that let her get lost and reclaim her identity. Having studied abroad in Hong Kong during its political unrest and interning in Japan during the pandemic, Tosha expanded her global perspective and believes that it helps her understand how things work in her home country better. Tosha is grateful for the people who took a chance on her and gave her the opportunities to try things that she had never done before. She wishes every international student would benefit from the opportunities that UC offers and know that IPALs are here to support them.


YARA ALANDIA Bachelor's in Architecture From Bolivia


“UC took away my fear about the world and myself. It equipped me with the tools that I need. I know that no matter what happens in the future, I’ll figure it out. I’m confident and I’m unapologetically me.” Growing up in a family that hosts volunteers from around the world, the globally-minded Yara wanted to study in the UK. But upon setting her foot on UC campus during a visit to Cincinnati, she immediately felt at home and decided to come to UC. Yara transformed from a curious seed that didn’t know what she wanted to the honest, confident person she is today with UC’s nurture. From the international admission advisor who helped her through the application process, and the academic advisor who helped her discover her strengths and life goals to find the most suitable major, to all the friends and studio mates she shared night adventures and long-hour studio work with, Yara is grateful for all the people she has come across in the past five years. “I found my place. Cincy was the right choice, and DAAP proves to be the right place. I’m happy with what I’m doing.” Inspired during her co-ops, Yara aspires to start an organization that connects colleges around the world to design and build things for communities in need.


Curated by Janet Chu Anusha Chitranshi


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