Hagop Housbian, now a junior at the University of La Verne in California, is of Armenian descent and was born in Lebanon. He grew up in the United Arab Emirates, mainly in Dubai, till he moved to Southern California two years ago to pursue his higher education.

By virtue of growing up in the UAE – predominantly populated by expats from around the world – Hagop was exposed to many different cultures and outlooks which helped form his worldview and eventually led him to his decision to study abroad in the United States.  

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Strong Aspirations  

By the tender age of 10, Hagop had already decided that he would travel abroad for university upon his high school graduation and, with the support of his family, he did just that.

Though Hagop had previously never heard of the University of La Verne, there were various compelling reasons as to why he chose to attend this private institution based in La Verne, California. Upon receiving an email from the University after taking his SAT, he began researching the school and immediately took interest. Hagop always dreamed of living in Southern California and he had family and friends already living in the area. La Verne’s location was therefore ideal. He was also offered a scholarship from the University and this only made his decision easier. He comments, “I am glad to say I have no regrets whatsoever in choosing the University of La Verne as my stepping stone to the American Dream.”   

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A Natural Predisposition to International Affairs

At the University of La Verne, Hagop is currently pursuing a degree in International Studies and is minoring in Psychology. When he was younger, he always had an inclination towards politics be it foreign affairs, diplomatic interactions or international relations. The impetus for deciding his major came from participating in a Model United Nations conference held at the American University of Sharjah in the UAE during his senior year of high school. He was one of just a handful of students chosen to represent his high school and he had no idea that the event would change his life forever. He was presented with the “Best Speaker” award for his efforts and he says that it was at that moment that he decided what he wanted to study in the future – International Affairs.

The decision to minor in Psychology came later, after Hagop took an Introduction to Psychology class at the University of La Verne. The field  had always intrigued him and he often pondered what drives people to act the way they do – what made them tick. He adds, “I believe that Psychology is a great minor to complement any field of study; it’s always a plus to know more about human behaviour. So studying psychology is a win-win at the end of the day.”

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Moving to the United States  

Hagop had very few issues adapting to living in the US and did not encounter much culture shock. In fact, he states that he has made more friends in his two years at university than he did in over 17 years in the UAE. “The conviviality, open-mindedness and easy-going mentality of the people here are some of the factors that have helped me adjust faster than I had expected,” he explains.

Hagop did struggle with some homesickness, but learned to use it as a motivating factor in his studies rather than one that proved debilitating. “Distance is tough,” he says, “But I know I have my family’s perpetual support throughout my journey.”

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Life at the University of La Verne

Moving to La Verne, California has been a life-changing decision for Hagop. He tells us that the things he has learned, the way he has matured and the people he has met while at university have all helped shape the man he is today. Choosing to study away from home has made him more confident, sociable and eager to learn and being an international student has only enhanced his academic and social experiences.

La Verne, California is a quiet town with a friendly atmosphere. Hagop believes that the small campus size makes it very easy to connect and socialize with fellow students. As a freshman and sophomore, he lived on campus where there was always something to do – go to nearby restaurants, visit friends in their dorm rooms or attend campus events. An avid guitarist, Hagop has even acquired a few musical gigs at restaurants around town.   

Hagop is all praises for the Office of International Student Services (OISS) and says that they do their very best to accommodate the needs and interests of the international student body. He even volunteered to help with the international orientation program last summer and says it was wonderful to see all the eager faces of the incoming international students – a place where he was at only two years ago.

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Beyond the Classroom  

Hagop recommends that students get involved in extra-curricular activities that engage and excite them. He is a member of the California Rho chapter of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity on campus and he serves as an Executive Board member of the Model United Nations Club at the University.

As a critical thinker and avid public speaker, the Model United Nations Club caters to Hagop’s passion towards international affairs. Last March, he travelled to New York to participate in a national conference along with thousands of other delegates from around the world. The enriching event solidified his choice of major and gave him valuable hands-on experience.

Hagop currently works two jobs while studying for his degree. He works at the University of La Verne’s Wilson Library at the Library Technology Services desk, where he helps both faculty and students with technological inquiries and operates the main circulation desk. He also holds a position as a writing tutor at the Academic Success Center on campus. In this capacity, he helps students with their academic papers.

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Reap the Benefits of the University of La Verne

The University of La Verne is a small school in the heart of Southern California and Hagop believes it is an ideal place for international students to earn their undergraduate degrees. With small class sizes and supportive professors and staff, the impact of this institution has been very positive to him academically and socially.

Reflecting on his overall experience so far, Hagop muses, “The University of La Verne has taught me many things: independence, networking skills, confidence, assertiveness, decision making, time management and much more. It has definitely been challenging, but I have learned to love challenges and do whatever it takes to overcome them.”

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Advice to International Students

Hagop would like to share the following piece of advice to all students – not just international students who are beginning their undergraduate career, “Do not be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. If there is one thing I have learned in the past two years at university it is that success and comfort are complete antonyms. Do not expect opportunity to knock on your door; you should be putting yourself out there and not only finding opportunities, but seizing them.”

If you are interested in applying to the University of La Verne, find out more about the university on SchoolApply, and start your application today!