Discovering different cultures at Fresno Pacific University – Petrika Gjata
“The International Office staff members were always proactive when helping students – they became a second family for most of the international students, including me, and we had fun going on trips and participating in activities together.”
Founded in 1944, Fresno Pacific University in a non-profit, Christian university located in central California in the United States. The school has five different campuses - the main campus is in Southeast Fresno and the regional campuses are in North Fresno, Visalia, Bakersfield, and Merced. Offering over 100 different areas of study, the university caters to around 4,000 students from all around the world.
This is where your commitment will gain the courage to make anything possible. You’ll join exceptional thinkers from all over the world in a supportive and challenging community. Located in the 5th largest city in California, the Fresno area is considered one of the largest, fastest growing and most diverse places in California. Fresno Pacific University is committed to you: to your goals, your dreams, your career and your life.
- Ellie Carlson, DSO, International Recruitment & Admissions Specialist, Fresno Pacific University
SchoolApply interviewed Petrika Gjata, an international student from Albania, to find out about his experiences at Fresno Pacific and his transition to life in the United States.
Fresno Pacific University
Location: Fresno, California (US)
Student Name: Petrika Gjata
Graduation: May 2018
Favorite class: One of the best classes I took was my Business Seminar last semester. It is the class that best exemplifies why I opted for an American education system for my higher studies and also why Fresno Pacific offers something special. In the class, we had to create a business and were graded by the revenues of the business, among other things. It was the best preparation for my future that I could ever have!
Favorite school event: The Parade of Nations that happens during the annual Thanksgiving Celebration. Students get the chance to carry their home country’s flag in front of the whole school. It is a moment to be proud of who you are.
Four words to describe Fresno Pacific University: Integrity, Commitment, Support, and Community
Tell us a little about yourself…
My name is Petrika and I am an international student from Albania. I turned 22 years old in April and I recently graduated from Fresno Pacific with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management.
I am from Albania, a small country in the Balkans of Europe. I grew up in the small town of Bilisht, which has a population of about 12,000 people. I lived in Bilisht for 18 years and then I moved to Fresno, California for my university studies and I have lived here for the past four years. I have never lived in any other country, but I love traveling and have visited Greece, Macedonia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, England and Mexico.
What were your school experiences like before university?
I completed my elementary and middle school in my hometown of Bilisht. I attended high school in Preca College located in Korce, a major Albanian city situated close to Bilisht. Preca College is ranked among the best high schools in the country. It is a special high school because it is run by a Maltese board of directors and most of the subjects are taught in English with a very similar style to the US education system. Studying at Preca College prepared me very well for my studies in the United States and so a special thanks goes out from me to the headmaster of Preca College, Carmel Camilleri.
How did you hear about Fresno Pacific University and what made you decide to study in the US?
I had heard that the education system in the United States is one of the best in the world and that it allows students to discover their talents and invest in themselves. Also, I felt like it was time for me to become independent, learn to live on my own and get to know other cultures.
A good friend of mine, George Gilchrist, a pastor who visits my local church in Bilisht, suggested that I apply to Fresno Pacific as he knew the university from his time as a pastor in Fresno. The university did a great job of communicating with me, they were always very friendly and helpful and I felt like that was the right environment for me. A special thanks goes to Oxana Aghaei who was working in the International Office during my application time and who spent multiple hours patiently helping me with all the documents and processes. Without her help, I wouldn't be at Fresno Pacific today.
Did you have any problems adjusting to life in a new country and university?
It was a bit of a cultural shock for me when I first came to Fresno. Albania is a very homogenous country so I didn't really get a chance to meet many people from different cultures back home. However, I was so excited to be in the United States for my studies that I soon overcame any cultural difficulties. Everyone in Fresno Pacific was so friendly that I made many friends in my very first week of school. Having friends who invited me out for different activities and to their homes helped make the transition to Fresno much easier for me.
What were your first few days in Fresno Pacific like?
I arrived a few days before school started on campus and I immediately loved the campus. The Resident Assistant (RA) at my dorm was really friendly and introduced me to some other American students. I was out meeting new people from the very first day of school. We also took a trip to Hume Lake with all the freshmen students and that was a great opportunity to meet new people. The university does a really good job of organizing these big trips with games and activities so that students can get to know each other.
What degree are you pursuing and why?
I got my degree in Business Management. Actually, I started as Pre-Health with the goal of going to medical school after. However, as I was taking general classes, I understood that my decision to go in the health field was premature and that my biggest desire was studying business management. I always dreamed of having my own business and making a difference in the local community. I want to leave a legacy and I felt that Business Management is the right major for me to achieve my goals.
Have you had a job while studying?
I have had a few jobs on campus. I first started as a Maintenance Technician assisting the school electrician. It was a whole new experience for me because I didn't know anything about that field, but I am really grateful to the electrician of the school for hiring me because it was my first job and it taught me how to be humble.
Later on, I was a math and chemistry tutor in the Academic Support Center on campus. It felt really good to be able to help other students succeed. Lastly, I was a Student Assistant in the International Office. When I first arrived, I had been impressed with how the International Office had communicated and interacted with me, and then I also had the pleasure of helping many other international students join the university.
Are you taking part in any extracurricular activities?
I joined the Theater Group my first year at university so I got a chance to pursue my passion of acting. Also, I was a member and, for the last two and half years, the President of the International Club. I helped organize trips to Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego and also planned activities on campus for overseas students. During my time at Fresno Pacific, I have had the pleasure of getting to know people from six continents and over 40 different countries. I have also made some friends for life!
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What has your academic and social experience been like as an international student at Fresno Pacific University?
I was very impressed academically by Fresno Pacific. The classes are really small, with about 20 students, so you can get to know your classmates and professors really well. The professors are passionate about their field of study and many of them decide to teach at Fresno Pacific because their high values align with those of the university. I found the professors to be helpful and caring and I learned so much from them. I can’t thank them enough.
The International Office staff members were always proactive when helping students – they became a second family for most of the international students, including me, and we had fun going on trips and participating in activities together.
Fresno is located in Central California and it is just a few hours’ drive away from Los Angeles, San Francisco and the main beaches in California. It is also very close to Yosemite National Park. Visiting these places, most of which I had seen before in movies, was a blast for me!
How has studying abroad changed you?
I have learned about new cultures and made friends from different countries. I have become more tolerant, respectful and accepting of others. I appreciate diversity much more now and I see it as very important aspect of communities. Furthermore, I have become more practical, a hard worker and more humble than I used to be.
How has Fresno Pacific University prepared you for life after college?
I came to Fresno Pacific with a bit of fear and doubt in my mind, but now I am confident and secure about my future. I have discovered my strengths and acquired knowledge and skills that will positively serve me for the rest of my life.
What have you been doing since graduation? What are your future plans?
I am currently working as a Research Analyst for a finance company in Fresno, and I will hopefully have my own business one day.
What would you say to international students who are considering studying at Fresno Pacific University?
Many people choose not to study abroad because they fear change. I know that change can be challenging, but it is very important in helping you grow in life. For me, studying in the US has helped me understand my potential and explore my talents and strengths.
I would say definitely join the school because you won't ever regret being a part of a wonderful group of international students who look after one another like family. You will always be supported by Fresno Pacific’s International Office in the midst of any difficulty. The friendly environment and the passion for adhering to teaching values are some of the school's strengths that make it stand out from other universities.
If you want to enroll in Fresno Pacific University, just click on its SchoolApply profile page and get started with your application now!