Las Vegas, N.M. — New Mexico Highlands University welcomed an exchange student from Kosovo this semester through the U.S. Department of State’s Kosovo Undergraduate Exchange Program.
The purpose of the exchange program is to advance youth leadership and promote mutual understanding.
Biljana Nikolic, 23, is from the small village of Laplje Selo on the outskirts of Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. She is the first student from her southeastern European country to attend Highlands since Kosovo gained its independence in 2008.
Nikolic is a junior majoring in environmental and agricultural management. In Kosovo, she attends the International Business College Mitrovica.
“So far, I’ve met many interesting people at Highlands and I love my classes,” Nikolic said. “The teaching methods are very interactive and the professors are motivating.”
She’s taking classes from geology professor Jennifer Lindline, forestry professor Craig Conley, English instructor Stephen Weatherburn, and math instructor Gregory Rael.
Nikolic’s mother tongue is Serbian. She is fluent in English and is an intermediate German speaker.
“I wanted to improve my knowledge and gain life experience in a new country,” Nikolic said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to be in America. There’s still so much to learn about English and I want to get into the language of the people.”
In addition to her academic studies, Nikolic will perform community service at a local nonprofit and also complete an internship that will give her hands-on experience in her discipline.
Tina Clayton, International Education Center director, is Nikolic’s adviser at Highlands. Clayton will also assist Nikolic in obtaining the community service work and internship.
“The International Education Center is very supportive, patient and always willing to help,” Nikolic said. “This means a lot when you are alone in new surroundings. People on campus and in the community are very friendly, polite and helpful.”
Students from 36 countries attend Highlands University.
“Having international students on our campus gives our students the opportunity to learn about other cultures and places in the world,” Clayton said. “Hopefully, this will encourage our students to travel and seek career opportunities in other countries.”
Nikolic will return to Kosovo after her year at Highlands. After she graduates from college, her professional goal is to work as an environmental auditor in the environmental consulting sector.
The Kosovo Undergraduate Exchange Program is a program of the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy to Kosovo. The International Research & Exchanges Board, an international nonprofit organization, administers the exchange program.