As a junior in high school, Ayna Mammedova volunteered at Mary American Corner in her hometown of Mary, Turkmenistan, teaching people in her community English.
Mammedova created a video based on her experiences at the American Center to apply for Temple’s first #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship.
“I had experience of organizing and leading different projects so I had an idea of how I would do that [at Temple],” Mammedova said. She added she focused on showcasing things of her country’s cultural significance, like clothing and souvenirs, in her video.
Two freshman international students received Temple’s first #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship, awarding them $20,000 annually to come study at Temple.
Mammedova and Monodragon both said without the scholarship, Temple’s tuition would have been too much for them to attend.
Fifty other schools also awarded the scholarship this year.
“I’m excited to represent my country because not a lot of people know about my country,” Mammedova added. “I’m really excited to have international projects and activities…[and] to learn about other cultures.”
Temple started the national campaign in 2016. Martyn Miller, the vice president of International Affairs, said the idea began when international relations in the U.S. started to get politically ‘tense’, and the office wanted to remind the Temple community that international students are welcome on campus.
Andres Mondragon, a freshman actuarial science major from Lima, Peru, also received the scholarship.
Mondragon wrote about the inequality he witnessed in Peru, specifically focusing on the gender gaps in employment. He added that although this inequality is seen in many societies, he wanted to focus on his own community.
“I know that I have a certain privileged because I belong to Lima, the capital of Peru, to be able to know so many successful women,” he said. “But I know that other provinces in my country don’t really have those opportunities because they are just not as developed. Women there don’t really have the access to as many resources.”
Mondragon also said he is glad he chose to come to Philadelphia as it is much more diverse and historical than he thought.
“[Philadelphia’s] a place with extreme culture and diversity, a bunch of landmarks I didn’t know about,” he added.
Mondragon’s goal is to create a microloan business to help women start their own businesses in Peru, he said.
Miller said that Mammedova and Mondragon’s applications stood out because they both highlighted different aspects of the campaign.
“In the case of Ayna, she took the concept of ‘#YouAreWelcomeHere’ and focused on the cultural exchange that she can bring to Temple—the cultural knowledge about Turkmenistan, a country with which most of us are very unfamiliar,” Miller said. “Andres, on the other hand, from Peru, wrote an essay focused on his desire to help underprivileged women in Peru gain a foothold in business.”
Mammedova said that the scholarship is giving her an opportunity to learn about other cultures and views of the world.
“I think it lacks generally because there is not so much opportunity to learn about other cultures from native people and people that were born there so it’s a great opportunity for intercultural exchange,” she said.
She added that the scholarship was an opportunity for her to broaden her view of the world as a student.
“Coming here, I can bring my own ideas … to the table and be able to share that with everyone,” Mondragon said. “I can bring external perspective on issues to American students with this opportunity.”
Managing Editor Pavlína Černá, an intern for The Office of International Affairs, played no part in the editing or reporting of this article.