Castleton’s expanding international community

Tita Annis works into the evening in Leavenworth Hall washing the blackboards, emptying the trash and dusting the white window blinds that stretch to the floor. She stands about five feet tall and with a bright white smile, her beaming face is intoxicating.For 16 years, Annis has worked at Castleton State College and makes up part of the population of students and faculty that is CSC’s international community.

And it’s a community the school wants to see grow.

Annis remembers when she arrived in the U.S. from the Philippines on July 13, 1993. She began working at Castleton on Nov. 20 of the same year.

“I like here ’cause I work here,” she said. “I send money back to family. How many nieces and nephews I have, I supply them.”

In 1997 she was on the front page of the Spartan when she became a citizen of the U.S. She remembered the difficulty of taking the test.

“Hard to get citizenship, hard to pass. One hundred questions. I ask some of the students, they don’t know,” she said, adding afterward with her delightful smile.

International students’ transition into a foreign education, let alone culture, is stressful. Alison Welch, Castleton’s international student resource coordinator and 2009 Castleton graduate, helps with that process.

A former international student herself, Welch says that students who study abroad acquire a sense of “cultural fluidity” in which they can navigate within multiple cultures.

“You need it. It’s a global world. It’s an international world. There will be very few people who don’t come into contact with something international when they graduate, or even before they graduate,” she said.

Associate Academic Dean Renny Harrigan said there are 59 internationals students and employees at Castleton, with 18 from Canada. For those who require English language tutoring, the school offers English as a Second Language, but not as a primary course.

“In the past few years we’ve budgeted money for recruiting,” said Harrigan. “If we get enough, we’ll get ESL as a formal course.”

Harrigan believes it’s important to increase international student enrollment. She said she values the Spanish department for its required study-abroad semesters and hopes the Chinese course next fall semester is a success.

For some international members here their experience has been well worth the adventure.

“I always wanted to have new experiences and visit new places,” said Phoebe Ezuruike, a Fulbright scholar in health sciences from Lagos, Nigeria. “Most want to hear about you.people eager to know about you.”

Ezuruike, a senior, said that if she could do it all over again she would. Other than missing her family in Africa, she thought Vermont food to be bland and lacking in spices and laughed when she added how Huden was “killing” her.

Fulbright, a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is a prestigious international exchange program that offers grants for students, teachers, artists, scientists and professionals.

Rasha Arabi is another Fulbright scholar from Damascus, Syria. She is taking courses as part of her Fulbright scholarship, but also teaches Arabic, her native language. Arabi said it was “very weird, very unusual” when she arrived here and found that one could walk down the street at night, and not only would it be very dark, no one was out either.

Arabi also talked about how busy everybody seems here.

“People here work really, really hard. Students study a lot,” she said. “I feel I’m very lucky to be with professors and students at the same time.”

It’s been fun, she said, but she misses aspects of Syria too.

“I would stay two to three years tops in the U.S. If I had my family I could stay my whole life.”

Students who have traveled away from Castleton universally praise the experience. Senior Wyatt Andrews, who traveled to Peru last year for nine months on a program with International Studies Abroad, said it was “probably the best thing I’ve done with my college experience.”

“The first couple weeks I smiled and nodded,” he said, adding that he had to relearn everything from riding the bus to asking for water.

“I think everyone should study abroad even if idly curious.It changes you,” Andrews said.

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