The reach of a beloved ritual at the University of South Florida has grown to a new part of the world. For the 152nd time, a nation’s flag has been raised in the engineering school to honor a graduating student, Azernews reports, citing TAMPA BAY.
For Vagif Asadov, walking into the lobby of the USF engineering building is not just about learning how to be a software engineer. It’s about being a part of history.
“Helping people to know about our country, it’s the best feeling ever,” he said.
The atrium with the 21-foot ceiling is covered in flags, and it includes the major world players – Japan, Korea, Germany, Britain, and Brazil.
But, there are also ones that don’t often get big headlines in this country –much like Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Nepal, Uganda, and Kazakhstan.
“The goal here is to demonstrate that the college is a welcoming place,” said Bernard Batson, the associate dean of engineering at USF.
But, one country that is not represented is where Asadov hails from. It’s a land of rolling hills that straddles Eastern Europe and West Asia.
Azerbaijan has cities with modern architecture but a history that goes back to the Stone Age.
Ten million people live there, who are almost exclusively Muslim and have been governed by a secular autocrat after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
“They have been through a lot throughout history,” said Asadov. “We have had our ups and downs in history to get the flag up. We tried so hard to be an independent country, of course, we are right now.”
But on a Friday in October, the 152nd flag was added to USF’s collection, because Asadov and his fellow countryman, Vagif Mammadov, are both upperclassmen on track to graduate. It was time to put up the Azerbaijani flag, with its white crescent and eight-pointed star.
The blue is for the country’s Turic heritage, the red is for progress and the green stands for Islam.
“It is the most proud I have ever felt in my entire life,” said Asadov. “I am not going to lie, being able to contribute to the process to hang my flag. It’s the best feeling ever.”
They are among the 27 Azerbaijani students among the 50,000 students across all majors. The 30-inch by 20-inch flags are organized by region and now cover 78% of the world.
“Both our masters and our PhD students are [overwhelmingly] international,” said Batson.
This isn’t just about the numbers for USF. Having and attracting students from many backgrounds is about keeping the engineering school relevant in its research and contribution.
“Engineering is really a global enterprise,” said Batson. “If we’re really going to solve problems, whether it’s clean water, engineering better medicines, we need people from diverse backgrounds and for our diverse perspectives.”
Asadov chose USF thanks to its national rankings in engineering, because he could afford it, and because he wanted warm weather. He has spent the last few years trying our food, meeting new people and even rooting for the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.
“We got to play all types of sports, the gyms are not as famous back where we come from,” he said
But, that’s not the reason he plans to move back home after he graduates next year. He believes his new skills as a programmer will be more useful and more marketable in Azerbaijan.
“I’m going to be needed more where I come from, compared to the United States,” said Asadov.
But now, a piece of Azerbaijan will be at USF long after he crosses the stage at graduation.