In 2015, the Georgia Rotary Student Program funded a one-year scholarship for Sri Lanka native Nipuna Ambanpola to attend Armstrong. Excited, Ambanpola was also nervous about adjusting to his new life on a U.S. college campus.
“When I set foot here, I didn’t have any friends,” Ambanpola says. “The American culture was completely new to me, and I was an alien to the education system.”
However, Ambanpola, who is majoring in Economics with a concentration in International Studies, quickly formed a close-knit circle through Armstrong’s supportive learning environments. He wasn’t ready to leave after his first year.
“Beyond Savannah’s history and beauty, there are so many other things that bind me to this city and university,” he notes. “I knew that I would thrive if I finished my education here.”
In his first two years, Ambanpola served as president of the Residential Student Association and founded the Rotaract Club, which brings young people together to exchange ideas and develop professional skills with leaders in the community.
In addition, he represented the university at the Governor’s Mansion in Atlanta and met with the University System of Georgia’s Chancellor and Board of Regents contingent as a member of the Student Advisory Council. Ambanpola also traveled to the University Scholars’ Leadership Symposium in Bangkok, Thailand as a world youth leader.
Now in his junior year, he is Armstrong’s Student Government Association President, representing the university’s 7,000-plus student body while promoting the benefits of volunteerism and improving lives through collaborative community efforts.
“Nipuna is a great student leader because he genuinely cares about the concerns of every person that makes up the Armstrong community,” says Armstrong Vice President for Student Affairs Georj L. Lewis. “I find his energy and enthusiasm contagious. You can’t help but be excited when Nipuna is around. He has a promising future.”
Recently, Ambanpola was selected to attend the World Forum for Democracy, which was organized by the Council of Europe and took place in Strasbourg, France. He also participated in Rotary Day at the United Nations in Geneva, where United Nations representatives and experts of the humanitarian world educated and inspired delegates on how to actively build peace at the local, regional and global levels. A special breakout session, organized by young leaders for young leaders, emphasized the importance of education in the peace-building process.
On his steady rise from campus outsider to international youth leader, Ambanpola credits Armstrong’s faculty and staff.
“I had help from every office I reached out to and every faculty member I spoke to,” he says. “That made me feel as if I belonged here, and it provided me the necessary resources to reach my goals.”
With a penchant for cutting-edge economic research and dreams of working in international diplomacy, Ambanpola will likely travel far from Armstrong, but the campus community he cherishes will always stay with him.
“I love the culture and our close-knit community,” he says. “This makes it possible for us to make great friends, create impactful dialogue and feel like part of a family when the university is so closely associated. That is what I love about Armstrong.”