Student Spotlight: Zazanya Gaddam & Joel Templeton
What began as a ride from the airport has turned into a lifelong friendship between these two Logsdon MDiv students. Last year, Joel Templeton ’21 volunteered with the Global Engagement office to pick up Zazanya Gaddam ’21 from the airport at midnight. After dropping him off at his new house, Templeton continued to invest in Gaddam’s life.
Templeton says he decided to volunteer with Global Engagement because he has always loved learning about international cultures. As Hardin-Simmons’ Senior Graduate Admissions Counselor, Templeton had already had some contact with Gaddam as he helped him with his application.
Learning from Each Other
Gaddam’s trip from India to the United States was his first international flight. “I was feeling anxious,” he said. “But people from Global Engagement assured me that someone would be there to pick me up. I had mixed feelings until I saw the face of Joel.”
Templeton stood at the Abilene airport holding a hand-crafted sign with Zazanya’s name on it. The sign meant so much to Gaddam that he kept it in his room for two months. “He made me feel so comfortable,” Gaddam said. “I like to make lifetime friendships, and I had that feeling with him.”
Templeton helped Gaddam learn about American culture, food, norms, and idioms. “He was the person I could lean on to understand things, especially during the transition process,” Gaddam said. “He is so approachable. Sometimes I think, ‘Who should I ask about this?’ Joel is normally the one I would go to.”
Gaddam was grateful for the times Templeton would take him to church, help him move furniture, and even give him hugs. Templeton said that Gaddam taught him about Indian culture and the importance of slowing down.
“Learning from someone who’s from a different culture brings such joy,” he said. “I’m very committed to a plan, but that isn’t always functional when someone is learning something foreign to them. Building a relationship with Zan made me reflect on my own relationship with others. Having patience and grace can be so valued with those that you’re working with.”
Inviting Others In
Templeton says he enjoys meeting people who are different than him. “There is this unforeseen satisfaction when you have the opportunity to teach somebody,” he said. “The level of welcoming I have received in countries I’ve traveled spoke to me. Being on the other side of that is really rewarding.” Templeton said his friendship with Gaddam is icing on the cake.
“Some volunteers are just a resource to their international students; it’s more transactional,” he said. “It’s been more organic for us. It’s turned into a friendship.”
Gaddam now works in the Global Engagement office, welcoming even more international students to Hardin-Simmons. “I get to meet people, which I love,” he said. “I like learning different things; I’m learning from people every single day. If I wasn’t in this office, I wouldn’t have gotten that.”
Gaddam organized this year’s volunteer team, including Templeton among its leaders. In addition to welcoming one student to Logsdon, Templeton hopes to attend each international graduate student at the airport.
“I want everyone to be like Joel,” Gaddam said. “Just being available. We need our international students to feel like they’re at home. They just need at least one person they can count on to feel at home and comfortable.”
Gaddam also volunteers with the Broadview Baptist Church youth ministry. He is also planning to help lead an international ministry there.