Lessons from America


By Derrick Parker - For the Daily Times



Ghaida Bouchaala came to the United States last August via the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship. The program, funded by the United States, started in 2014 as a way for Tunisians to study, experience American culture, and grow leadership skills to take back to their homeland.

Ghaida Bouchaala came to the United States last August via the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship. The program, funded by the United States, started in 2014 as a way for Tunisians to study, experience American culture, and grow leadership skills to take back to their homeland.


PORTSMOUTH – On April 30, Ghaida Bouchaala will pack her bags, get on a plane, and head back to her native country of Tunisia.

Tunisia, for readers who are unfamiliar, is the Northernmost country in Africa, nestled between Algeria and Libya. Tunisia was controlled by the French until 1956 when it achieved its independence. In 2011, then President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country after a political revolution involving the Arab Spring. Now, 10 years later, Tunisia has managed to build a democracy and start to reshape the future of the country.

Ghaida Bouchaala may very well be an integral part of that future. Bouchaala came to the United States last August via the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship. The program, funded by the United States, started in 2014 as a way for Tunisians to study, experience American culture, and grow leadership skills to take back to their homeland.

“The first time I heard about the program was in college,” said Bouchaala. “A woman I met at my university, the National Institute of Applied Science and Technology, told me I should apply.”

Bouchaala, a computer engineering student, applied for the program during her third year at the university. But she was rejected. As it turns out, the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship is incredibly competitive.

“I was so sad,” she said. “But it was a good thing I found out because the program was canceled that year due to COVID.”

Bouchaala applied again. By this time she had built a long resume. She had worked as a developer. She helped organize tech events through META (aka Facebook). She underwent an internship focusing in blockchain technology and she participated in Open Startup Tunisia – a student focused business accelerator.

“On March 30, 2021, I found out I was accepted into the program. I was so excited! And when I arrived in August I felt like I was in an American movie.”

But that movie took a quick turn. Bouchaala was diagnosed with COVID soon after.

“COVID was rough. It really took me a month or two to realize I was in America and to enjoy it.”

When she recovered, Bouchaala immersed herself in American culture by studying business at Shawnee State University, involving herself in student life, and traveling across the country. She attended Mardi Gras in New Orleans, went surfing in the pacific ocean in California, attended her first concert in Las Vegas, and soaked up the sunshine in Miami.

“I tried to really utilize an app called ‘Couch Surfing’. It’s all about finding people willing to host you for free to get a sort of cultural exchange,” she explained.

“It went so well…and I’m still alive,” she laughed. “There were no horror stories.”

Despite traveling across the country, Bouchaala said there is a soft spot in her heart for Portsmouth.

“I love it here. I love the nature. I love hiking. I’ve gotten to do all sorts of things thanks to the people from the community…In America, you get to almost experience every other country combined. It’s such a unique experience.”

Bouchaala said she is going to take back many memories and lessons from her short time here. The 23-year-old remarked that Tunisia had many opportunities – and that she would love to start her own business there.

“We have so many opportunities to improve lives in Tunisia. I’ve traveled around America and it’s obvious people cherish equality, liberty, democracy. They have lots of businesses, good transportation systems…Tunisia is still in a difficult time. Maybe I’ll start something of my own when I get back.”

“I don’t know what the future holds, outside of finishing university. Maybe I’ll come back to America and finish my MBA. I love it here. This has been a wonderful experience between the people, traveling, my classes and professors at SSU. I’ll also remember it.”

Ghaida Bouchaala came to the United States last August via the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship. The program, funded by the United States, started in 2014 as a way for Tunisians to study, experience American culture, and grow leadership skills to take back to their homeland.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2022/04/web1_3.jpgGhaida Bouchaala came to the United States last August via the Thomas Jefferson Scholarship. The program, funded by the United States, started in 2014 as a way for Tunisians to study, experience American culture, and grow leadership skills to take back to their homeland.

By Derrick Parker

For the Daily Times

Reach The Daily Times at (740) 353-3101 or by email at [email protected]

© 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach The Daily Times at (740) 353-3101 or by email at [email protected]

© 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved