Every year, Winona State has a University Theme that promotes partnerships and conversations between faculty, staff, students, and community members about important issues. 


For the 2020-21 academic year, the theme is “My Global Identity, Our Global Community.” This year’s theme is all about acknowledging, reflecting, and celebrating our rich global history and opportunities. 


“My Global Identity, Our Global Community” also builds awareness of the plurality of global identities through experiential learning opportunities in our community. 


In honor of this year’s theme, WSU alumni are sharing their stories about how they discovered and defined who they were. Meet our first volunteer writer, Abdullah AL Dharfan:



In 2015, I decided to come to the United States to learn English as a second language. The beautiful and quiet city of Winona treated me with kindness and smiles. 


I joined ELC (the English Language Center) at WSU where I found the perfect environment for learning. As an international student who barely knew the city and spoke little English, WSU made it easier for me to find everything I needed, like the bookstore, library, cafeteria, and more. 


The teachers at the ELC made learning more interesting. They filled the room with excitement and used different teaching techniques–like group work and interviews–which greatly improved my skills and confidence. 


I learned how to read, speak, write, listen, and search for information in English. I graduated from the ELC in 2016 and returned home to Saudi Arabia with an incredible education and unforgettable memories under my belt.


Learning English enhanced my major in civil engineering at Jazan University. As an engineering student, searching for more information and reading books related to the field is a must. Because most useful information and books are written in English, I have an advantage to learn more and faster.


Speaking a global language has increased my social contacts. I meet friends online through Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms. I also make connections when traveling, which makes it fun even when I’m alone. 


A new idea I began working on this year was creating my own clothing brand. I want to design street looks that combine different cultures and modern designs, a hybrid inspired by my Saudi background and my American education. I’m hoping to start with designing tops and pants for all genders, then working my way to bags and even home decor. 


Communicating with people around the globe has opened up new opportunities, especially when it comes to starting a business. I’m reaching out to manufacturers and designers from China, Germany, and Turkey to make my clothing brand come to life. 


I’ve traveled to quite a few places domestically and internationally. Within the United States. I’ve traveled to Miami, Las Vegas, New York, and Washington, D.C. To reward myself after working hard in school, I traveled to the Philippines and Azerbaijan for pleasure.


I believe sharing ideas and listening to others who come from different backgrounds improves the quality of a product. Being able to travel around the world has taught me to accept others with different beliefs, cultures, and races. Our differences can improve the quality of life.


Traveling and connecting with people has also opened my eyes, and I now see a colorful world full of love, caring, and kindness. My experiences got me closer to the world around me, freed my spirit, and opened up my mind. 


We grow up with time, but we learn with experience. 


Knowing who you are can play a role in defining your identity and living a happy life. 


My family focused on my wants and needs as a child, and I adopted that mentality as a grown man now. I know what I want to be in life and the things that I like and dislike. But most importantly, I know how I belong to the world around me and how I interact with it.


I am a proud Saudi, but I also belong to every country I’ve been to.