Associate News Editor
For all students, college represents a journey marked by learning and growth, but it seems even greater when they start on the other side of the world. This year's seniors hail from locales across the world — as far away as China and Argentina.
Though enrollment numbers for international students have been on the rise at both schools over the past four years, foreign students are in a definite minority, as only 38 will graduate from Notre Dame and two from Saint Mary's.
But these students say they have come to love academic and student life here and will take important lessons about life with them as they travel back to their native countries or choose to remain in the United States.
"I was amazed at how wonderful people are here," said Saint Mary's senior Kremi Angelova, who is from Stara Zagora, Bulgaria.
Senior Carol Tushabee, who transferred to Saint Mary's from Holy Cross College as a sophomore, said she chose to come to the United States because Holy Cross actively recruited her. Tushabee, who is from Uganda, was attracted to Saint Mary's small size and academic reputation.
"Overall, my experience has been good. The students and teachers have been really friendly," she said.
At Saint Mary's, Tushabee, a philosophy major and women's studies minor, was involved in a myriad of activities but focused on service in the South Bend community. Tushabee worked with adult literacy programs, was a member of the Around the World Club and volunteered at the Chapin Street Clinic and St. Margaret's House, a shelter for battered women. Saint Mary's also sent Tushabee and two other Saint Mary's students to Uganda to attend the International Interdisciplinary Conference on Women.
After graduation, Tushabee hopes to carry with her the lessons she has learned about women and leadership. Next fall, she will attend Texas Women's University to earn a masters degree in women's studies. Eventually, Tushabee hopes to earn a doctorate in public policy and then work for a non-governmental organization, preferably at the United Nations.
"I would like to find a job with the U.N. that focuses on women in developing countries," she said.
Notre Dame senior Maria Richa, who is from Panama, said that the academic excellence of American schools was a major factor in her decision to come to the United States. "There's a lot of Panamanians that go to college in the U.S.," she said. "My father graduated from [Notre Dame]."
At Notre Dame, Richa, who is a psychology major, said that adjusting to culture differences posed a challenge at first, but she soon began to feel at home at the University. Richa participated in foreign student programs through the Office of International Students Services and Activities and helped plan international student banquets her freshman, sophomore and junior years.
After leaving Notre Dame, Richa intends to return to Panama and eventually attend graduate school for clinical psychology in either Europe or the United States.
"I want to practice [as a psychologist] and probably open a kindergarten for children with mental deficiencies," she said.
Like Richa, Angelova, a computational mathematics major, said she choose to attend school in the United States because of the academic reputation of American colleges and the influence of another Bulgarian friend who attended school in the United States.
When Saint Mary's offered her an academic scholarship, Angelova decided to leave her family and friends behind for a new experience.
"It was my first time going abroad," she said. "It was difficult to cross over the barrier of coming from another country."
But once at Saint Mary's, Angelova found a welcoming community and a variety of activities to participate in. An active member of the Math Club and a founding member of the Around the World Club, Angelova said her presence and that of other international students helped to change the dynamics of student life at the College.
"[International students] broaden everyone else's point of view," she said.
After graduating, Angelova said she would attend a graduate program in computational finance at Purdue University. After completing her masters degree, Angelova said she will consider earning a doctorate and eventually may return to Bulgaria or live in western Europe but will always remember her time at Saint Mary's.
"I'm going to miss this close knit community," she said.
All News Stories for Friday, July 11, 2003