Freshman Fatma Mataguri said she has always aspired to give back to her country, but while living in Libya, where women rarely assume leadership roles, she never thought about serving in government.
The business school student is now one of five international students – the most in recent history – contending for a seat on the Student Association Senate.
Mataguri said participating in GW’s student government would be “a great way to give something back before I leave.”
“Even though Libya is where I’m from – Libya’s my country – it’s going to take a while for me to be able to have an opportunity like this there,” Mataguri said.
The influx of foreign students into University politics is the result of the efforts of two veteran international students in the organization. As GW grows its international recruiting base and looks to double its foreign student population to 30 percent over the next decade, the students say structured representation in the SA is important.
Sen. Shashwat Gautam, G-At-Large, worked with the SA’s appointed international student representative Shirley Hsieh to form the Student Association of International Leadership, which helps to explain the process of joining the SA to students new to GW and America.
The group met Monday to give candidates final tips before their campaigns move into full swing. Registration closed last Friday, and the candidates now have a month until the election.
“A lot of times, a lot of the international students don’t know how to go about being part of that, just because they’re not used to the system,” Mataguri said.
Gautam, who last year was the only international student to run for the senate, said he wanted to create “some kind of institution so that international students can create their own legacy.”
First-year MBA student Harimandir Garcha, who helps reach out to students for the group, said most international students are confused about the first step: how to start up a campaign.
“A lot of students do not necessarily know how to there’s a process you need to go through, setting everything up. Especially here at GW, there’s a lot of rules,” Garcha said.