The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday May 16th

Exchange student Keegan Pullar keeps people laughing

Keegan Pullar is an exchange student from New Zealand.
Buy Photos Keegan Pullar is an exchange student from New Zealand.

The exchange student from New Zealand said he likes going against the grain and making people laugh, like when he dressed up as Cupid for Valentine’s Day.

“I don’t want to be the same as every Tom, Dick and Harry,” he said. “I want to just be different and express my uniqueness.”

He said this uniqueness is a way to bring his New Zealand identity to America instead of just assimilating to American culture — where there’s plenty of fast food and everyone seems to dress the same, he said.

“I feel I should utilize my uniqueness to lighten the atmosphere and help people feel encouraged,” he said.

Deborah Southall, an exercise and sport science professor who has Pullar in one of her classes, said he often shares cultural colloquialisms in class.

“He doesn’t try to hide those or talk like we talk,” she said. “He just says it and just creates — students laugh. He laughs. He’s just an engaging personality.”

But earlier in the semester, he was the one who needed encouragement.

“Being foreign, it’s easy to fall through the cracks and be marginalized,” he said.

Pullar said his first semester was exciting to begin with because he was in a new environment meeting people and trying new things. But he soon felt isolated when many people who had offered support were not available when he needed them, he said.

“It just got really hard, and I felt distant,” he said. “I didn’t want to say anything because I’m always the chipper one.”

Kit Lee, a close friend of Pullar’s and an exchange student from Australia, knew about this difficult time.

“I think (the lack of close community was) one of the things that brought him down a bit because back home he had a community that he was part of,” he said. “But then here, he sort of feels like because he doesn’t know as many people on a personal basis, he got a bit overwhelmed.”

Pullar said he was able to get back to being himself by getting involved with ministry groups and keeping in touch with his family back home.

“(The ministries gave) me that sense of brotherhood, like a purpose — something to commit to, something to feel like I’m loved and valued, somewhere to personally ground my faith,” he said.

Lee said Pullar has been like an older brother to him and has been an encouragement to him as well.

“He has a sort of energy that rubs off on you in the sense that he gives you energy as well,” Lee said. “You can be yourself.”

But it’s not just about the jokes for Pullar.

“Jokes are great, but I mean, I kind of want to express what I really went through as well as that community and how good God was.”

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