UM hosts 25 Iraqi students this summer

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MISSOULA, Mont. - The University of Montana is one of only four universities in the country to host a group of Iraqi students this summer.

UM received a grant from the World Learning Institute, which is based in Washington, D.C.

The students are from all over Iraq and were selected by the U.S. embassy in Iraq.

The program's mission is to promote international peace building through studies in environmental and cultural preservation.

Wednesday the students took a bike ride through Missoula, and we caught up with them at Free Cycles.

Fatimah, one of the exchange students, told us about how the program promotes peace, "As Iraqis, or Arabs in general, we have a very bad reputation here. So by coming here to the USA and talking to people, and them talking to us, they will change their view on us, because we are just peaceful -- a peaceful people."

Other students echoed similar sentiments.

Every student we spoke to said they were impressed with the friendliness of Missoulians.

Dr. Natalie Dawson, a wilderness studies professor at UM, is one of the organizers of the program. She explained the nexus between international peace building and environmental and cultural preservation: "The way we weave those themes in is by inviting people who are involved in environmental and culture preservation activities, but with a social or environmental justice or peace-building mission associated with them."

The students are heading to Glacier National Park to examine international peace park development and cultural history preservation.

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