Since 2003, alumnus Eric Kowalski (ICPES 97, IIPES 98) has funded an international student’s travel to attend a TFAS International Programs. But the Kowalski family went above and beyond the call of duty in 2006 when they opened up their home to a TFAS student.
In July of 2006, Nour Arnout (IIPES 06) left her home in Lebanon a few hours before the Beirut runways were bombed during the start of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. As the three-week IIPES program came to an end, she faced a startling reality that she would be unable to return home for the fall.
Eric’s younger sister, Kathryn Kowalski (CSF 05, IIPES 06) who was in Greece with Arnaout that summer, contacted the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) in her hometown of Indiana, Pa. It was then arranged for Arnaout to attend classes for credit at IUP and live at the Kowalski’s home in Indiana.
In an interview with the IUP newspaper, Arnout stated, “At that moment I was really lost until Katie Kowalski came to me and said you can just apply to my university and you can come live with my parents and me. I applied to IUP, was accepted, and was granted a scholarship. Katie’s family paid the rest of the tuition.”
Arnaout cannot express how thankful she was for the Kowalski family. “They understand a lot that I came here directly from Greece without seeing my parents. These facts lead their son Eric Kowalski to buy me a ticket to go visit my parents and see my friends when the fall semester was over.”
In addition to being an active alumnus, Eric Kowalski has raised scholarship money to help students, particularly from the Middle East, travel to attend TFAS summer programs.
“I think all students accepted into the international programs deserve to attend,” said Kowalski.
“It is very generous of Eric to assist these students by paying for their travel,” said International Programs Director Michelle Jeffress (IPJ 95, AIPE 96). “Because of him, these students are able to have an extraordinary summer learning about other cultures firsthand.”
Kowalski, who worked as a small business volunteer with the Peace Corps for two years in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, chooses to reach out to international students because of what he learned during his time overseas.
“My Peace Corps experiences made me realize that a lot of people in developing countries are financially poor,” said Kowalski, “but the wealth of knowledge that they possess is not any different than a person in a developed country who is financially wealthy.”
Kowalski credits TFAS with being a stepping-stone towards his work in the Peace Corps. He feels that his experience in Greece pushed him to volunteer and then to go on to earn a master’s degree in economic development and policy from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
“TFAS was one of the best decisions I ever made,” said Kowalski. “I honestly feel that the more I help assist foreign students that want to learn at an institute, the stronger TFAS will be for having these students attend.”
Previously, Kowalski worked for Opal Systems Company, LLC, through which he had the opportunity to travel to Jordan and Kuwait. While on his trip, during the first week of April, Kowalski was able to attend the Rebuild Iraq 2005 Conference in Amman. Kowalski currently resides in Osaka, Japan where he works for the Ericsson Telecommunication Corporation.