A melting pot of cultures

As the spring semester winds down many Castleton students start to think about summer plans. Most work around home, but what if your home was thousands of miles away as was your family?Not many suspect that there are such students at Castleton, because the majority live within a reasonable distance. But if you look closely, it won’t take long to find international students. Some are in your classes and one recently spoke about her country during women’s history month.

But what is the Castleton experience like for international students? The student handbook states that “We welcome international students on our campus; however, an international student who meets the admission requirements of Castleton will be required to submit a one-year deposit of $17,000. The international student policy at Castleton does not apply to Canadian citizens.

Since most international students don’t qualify for aid, they have to pay up front. That probably is no easy feat. Most students can barely manage rent and other expenses.

The intention of this article was to interview some international students and write a nice story about how great it is that Castleton has a diverse student population.

But after talking to a few students, at least one said they didn’t want this to be a piece targeting them to prove Castleton’s diversity. These students denounce the common stereotype that all international students are alien to all aspects of American culture.

Many schools big and small have support systems for international students. (I learned this at the media conference in NYC.) They are called multicultural centers open to all students, yet they serve as a mediator to address the needs of international and students from diverse backgrounds. I like to stress that the following excerpts came directly from our students in their own words.

Paradise Found

My name is Catalina Alcaraz Guzmán from Medellin-Colombia. When I came to the U.S I did not know much about Vermont or even the United States. I left my country in search of becoming a filmmaker. The U.S. sells itself as a paradise where everything looks like Disneyland and magic happens for you to follow your dreams. I went to Arizona State University first, and doors were pretty much closed for Colombians in terms of opportunities and/or scholarships.

I ended up in Vermont through family sponsorships and some connections from relatives. I started at CCV because it was the cheapest option in the area. It was a good way to get started and improve my English to a college level. CCV offered me an opportunity to take classes at Castleton and that is how I got to know this school.

Castleton is a great liberal arts school where many groups have the freedom to express themselves. There are wonderful professors and you have the choice to either do your best and become an outstanding professional or simply take it easy and let the classes go by you. I have been well appreciated in my classes. My professors like to ask me my point of view from another culture and I had a chance to participate in many interesting venues where I have been able to express myself.

My classmates and friends show a lot of interest in getting to know other countries. They don’t know much at first, but they are willing to listen with open minds. It is my understanding that there is only one scholarship for international students that is granted to one person for their entire time at Castleton. This scholarship should be awarded on a semester-by-semester bases and it should be given to the best GPA.

I am graduating in May and my only concern for future international students at Castleton is the lack of expertise from the administration when it comes to attend the legalities and special needs that involve being an international student.

They try to do their best with the little they know, but they can get you in trouble for not knowing the laws, and for not taking the time to find ways to guide you and support you. They need to understand that international students need a little closer attention and services.

A forged path

My name is Cristiana Bach and I grew up in Treviso, Italy, a small town of 80,000 popular for its delicious Tirame Su cake and for Prosecco – the Italian version for champagne — and headquarters of an international fashion company called Benetton. I lived in many different places before I was 25. I lived in Paris, France, Stuttgart, Germany, Copenhagen, Denmark, Boston and Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles a couple of times.

Growing up I enjoyed family time with more than 20 cousins, grandparents, and my family. My father was president of Italian Rugby Association and we spent many weekends traveling to Rome or Florence to watch his favorite sport. I did not always know I wanted to pursue college, but in high school I worked as hard as I could to get good grades.

I moved to Vermont when the company I worked for 10 years opened a new franchise in the area, married, and had children. My marriage ended. Almost overnight a new path in my life was forged. Just the thought of being alone with two toddlers sent my head spinning as my world was crushing down. To remain truly competitive, I committed to return to college. Castleton State College has been the most rewarding college for me because it is the toughest.

It tests you both physically and mentally. You learn a lot about yourself as a person while going through the four years of courses. I only regret that there could have been a chance to have more interaction in a multicultural extra-curriculum setting. My advice would be to increase the opportunities for learning other languages and opportunities to get together in international education and social settings. My heritage includes a country which has intense passion for eating, playing, talking, cooking, driving and much more, always done with a zest like no other. I believe this spirit has created longtime friendships with many in this beautiful campus.

During my four years at Castleton, I had often a feeling of benessere (well-being). Even with all the study work and the difficulty of sometimes making myself understood in English, I felt peaceful and energetic because I was always welcomed.

First Impressions

This exert came form Simona Delia Talos from Romania.

What’s going on, students wear pajamas to school? I’m overdressed. What’s that? The professors want me to write papers. What the hell! (Ce naiba- Romanian translation). I’m used to taking final tests. Papers? That’s sucks. They’re crazy, don’t they know that European universities don’t work like this. And the teachers want to talk to me? They’re friendly? I thought they were supposed uncaring and harsh. How’s anyone supposed to learn with nice teachers. Aren’t we supposed to be scared?

As a former law student from Romania, I experienced many transitions coming to Castleton State College. Professors want you to achieve and they support you more than I was used to. Administrators follow up on requests for things like transcripts with a simile (would they have done that in Romania, hell no!) Castleton staff, from the top administrators to the secretaries in the registrar’s office, always presented themselves as being there for you.

It has been an incredible experience and one I am thankful for.

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