CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Dec. 17, 2014 – Sisters Ismathul and Izzathul Mohamed Mehelar of Kandy, Sri Lanka, plan to graduate from Southeast Missouri State University together Dec. 20.
“Attending school with my sister was one of the best decisions I ever made,” Ismathul said. “It made my life so much easier since I felt less homesick and had her as a friend by my side all the time. We always helped each other when one of us struggled in a class or with any problem. My sister has given me advice when I needed it and guided me to achieve success in college life together. We did some subjects together, and it is really fun and great to study together.”
Ismathul will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry. Izzathul will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in biology with an emphasis in medical sciences.
Their parents graduated from the University of Peradeniya, a university in Sri Lanka they say is well-known and has high standards. Both parents wanted their daughters to pursue their education at their alma mater.
However, the siblings decided to research opportunities in the United States and contacted some friends already studying in America. They then decided to attend Southeast.
Their parents supported the idea of obtaining a good college degree from a well-recognized university, and although they didn’t like the idea of sending their children overseas, they supported their daughters’ decision to attend Southeast, according to Ismathul.
Ismathul says studying in another country was “like learning a whole new language. I had to learn so many things since almost everything was new to me.”
Yet, Ismathul says attending a school in a different country contributed to her becoming well-rounded, even though the transition was difficult at first.
“Although it took some time to adjust and get adapted to a different country, eventually I really started to enjoy the new experience,” Ismathul says.
The siblings say they appreciate both the academic and cultural experiences they have had at Southeast. Outside of class, they have fond memories of visiting the river with friends and eating ice cream during the summer, watching movies and walking in the evenings.
Izzathul says studying in another country “was a very interesting and exciting journey for me. At the beginning, I struggled a little and then I got used to it, and I got a lot of help from the faculty, as well as tutors,” she said.
The two say attending Southeast helped them develop their career choices. It also provided them numerous opportunities for success through involvement in University organizations and connecting to professors, classroom activities and research opportunities.
“All these experiences are valued in my country and will benefit me greatly one day when I return to my country,” Ismathul said.
“I learned a lot of new things in studies as well as some life lessons,” Izzathul said. “Seeking education is the best thing one can choose. Southeast gave me a better quality of life. It gave me something to pass on to future generations. Most of all, it made me a legitimate candidate for a job with a future.”
Izzathul says after she graduates she plans to continue her studies in cell biology and find a job.
“I love doing research and experiments so I will probably end up in a company recognized for biology research,” Izzathul said.
Ismathul is applying for Optional Practical Training (OPT), a program available to international students, to gain more experience in the professional field and apply for jobs as a biochemist at a chemical company.
“Eventually I want to invent a new drug that will make a change in the world,” Ismathul said.
Both said they are grateful for their parents, professors, classmates, and everyone else who has made their college lives memorable and successful. They said they would like to give special thanks to their parents, since without their dedication and sacrifices none of it would have been possible.
“I’m really glad for choosing Southeast and finally being able to make my parents proud by successfully completing a degree. A college degree made my life more meaningful and gave me better life goals,” Ismathul said.
To Southeast students, the sisters offered some advice.
Izzathul said, “Never ditch classes. Don’t wait until the last minutes to finish homework, assignments, and papers – earlier the better. Most of all stick to a plan.”
Ismathul added, “Concentrate on achieving something each semester, even if it is passing a class with an ‘A’ grade,” she said. “Even if you are stressed out with loads of work, remember that each semester will be over before you know it, and then it will be time to celebrate all the little achievements of the semester,” she said.