Cultures come together at KC

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Vietnam, Japan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Nigeria, Cambodia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Gambia and other countries: the crowd in the Randolph C. Watson Library Thursday gathered there from all over the world, and they were just a fraction of Kilgore College’s international student population.

“Most of them are new here: it makes them feel better to know there are other people that are new here,” said KC sophomore Bernice Donou of Benin, president of the school’s International Students Club. “It’s great to get to know people and not get left aside. It makes the experience easier.”

Donou joined her fellow upperclassmen in welcoming their new classmates Aug. 23 alongside KC staffers and representatives from the school’s on-campus ministries. English was the common tongue, but it flowed comfortably amid a happy murmur of foreign tongues as the students accepted gift bags assembled by the Wesley Foundation’s Sharron Westbrook along with a spread of snacks.

“Coming halfway around the world into a different culture is hard enough,” said Jaymi Blankenship of the BSM. “Starting a brand new school halfway around the world with no family and no friends can be almost impossible.

“Having organizations like the international club and our campus ministries partnering with them is just one more step toward helping these students acclimate to our Kilgore culture.

According to Estonia Graves, KC’s international admissions specialist and newest assistant registrar, the college’s international students program currently boasts 91 people from 37 countries. Some live on campus, others elsewhere – there’s no requirement international students dorm at the college.

“Everyone as far as new students have checked in. They’re all here,” Graves said. As for those returning for another semester, “We do have some students who come back at the very last minute over the weekend.”

They’ll all dive in when classes get underway next week, taking on classes as varied as their homelands and their host country.

“When they’re coming in, we like to assign them to mentors so that they’re not alone,” Graves noted. Activities like Thursday get-together at the library also helps the students get comfortable faster: “By having events like that, it provides them the exposure to various cultures – our culture, the way we do things here, and we also learn about their cultures as well.

“We have a great group of international students, hardworking students. Not only are they committed to their education but they’re also committed to assisting other students when they come in. They play a large role within the international student club so that every student is active on campus.”

To learn more about KC’s international students program and group’s club, email egraves@kilgore.edu.

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