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Stories, Reflections & Testimonials

by or about International Students at Ramapo College

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Bulgaria

From a very early age, I’ve always felt drawn to exploring foreign cultures and traveling abroad. Having had visited most of Europe by the end of high school, I knew I wanted to go farther out for my college education. This was when I decided to study in the United States—a bold decision, which few of my peers at the time would understand or agree with. In fact, although most of my friends and family were extremely happy and proud of me for my decision, most wondered why I would choose to go so far. The answer was that navigating and exploring a different “world” can be extremely rewarding. Indeed, over the four years I spent at Ramapo I received a world-class education, achieved high academic success, gained experience at one of the most thriving companies in the fashion industry, made many supportive and kind-hearted friends, and learned to be more flexible, independent, and mature. Conversely, I now clearly recognize that a country which fosters diversity and welcomes international students experiences both social and economic benefits for the larger community. Lastly, I am extremely grateful for the kind, supportive, and highly responsive team of Roukema Center. Thank you, Raj, Izumi, and Ben for always being there for us!

-Victor Georgiev, Ramapo College Class of 2019

I came to the United States 13 years ago as an international student. The process wasn’t easy – it involved a lot of sacrifice, hard work, and tears. Despite the challenges, I was committed to pursue it because it was my dream. I knew there was no other country in the world that would provide me the same opportunities, liberties, and freedom. Studying at Ramapo College gave me all of this – opportunity to study what I liked, liberty to express my views, freedom to believe that everything is possible as long as I worked hard for it and pursued it with passion and commitment. I believe that international students do enrich and add value to the community in a tangible way – help with tutoring or on-campus work- but more importantly intangible – with knowledge, diverse perspectives, different and innovative thinking, exchange of culture, language, food, love.. I think it is hard to put a price tag on these attributes. If you extrapolate this on a country level, I think the same could be said. One can measure the economic activity of international students (which overtime is not marginal), but for many of us this would be the least of the important services we provide to this country which while may not be our “native” country, its our home country – and we love it and care about it.

-Dorina Georgieva, Ramapo College Class of 2011

Studying in the United States as international student was the biggest challenge and the greatest achievement of my life. When I decided to attend college in the US, I had to prepare for and take standardized tests in a foreign language, do my own research and apply for universities thousands of miles away, and pay tuition and visa fees, which were almost unbearable for me and family given the difference in economic standards. Like many fellow international students, I chose to live, work, and study in the US because I believed in the country’s values and the quality of it’s education. International students are not born entitled to study and live in the US – we fight for that privilege and we earn, often times costing us everything that we have. We do everything right – we arrive legally and follow strict rules about studying, working and travelling with one goal in mind – get the best education while contributing to the community that welcomed us. As a student, I have always strived to be a campus leader through my involved in organizations, events, and community service activities. I have contributed to the academic discussions in class and often brought a new, unexpected perspective to an issue or a question, which has enriched the diversity of though for domestic and helped domestic students see issues from a different vantage point. I felt a sense of belong to my academic institution and have developed a strong bond with students and faculty that I keep to this day, five years later. All of this has not come easy as in the meantime, I had to navigate life away from my family, adapt to a new culture and manage my financial situation as a teenager. A lot of my international student friends couldn’t afford to go back for their entire education, and being forced to so would have meant the end of their educational career that they fought for so hard. No student should be put in a situation where they have to chose between their health and their dream of pursuing education in the US. It’s a choice I would have been able to make.

—Alexander Vasilev, Ramapo College Class of 2015


Nepal

My dream of pursuing a career in psychology was forged at Ramapo. The Roukema Center for International Education, with Raj, Izumi and Ben, was a place for us where we went to discuss our issues of any kind: personal, financial, legal. They even lent me a blanket, which I still possess, on my first day of arrival. Other departments, such as the Registrar’s Office and the Center for Student Success, were well organized and efficient. Living on campus – Mackin Hall, the CPAs, and the Village – was enriching. A lot of unforgettable memories are formed in those three buildings. Uncountable walks and hikes to the Ramapo Reservation are some of my favorite Ramapo memories. Professors were very approachable; I still have very close relationship with some of them. Dr. Bob Becklen, Dr. Tilahun Sineshaw, and Dr. Sandra Gonsalves still continue caring. And they wrote fantastic (and numerous) recommendation letters for me. I have made an invaluable circle of friends at Ramapo. Since I lived and worked in the area after I graduated, I enjoyed the privilege of being a Ramapo alumni: access to the library, the online database, and the gym.

– Sanjay Chhetri, Ramapo College Class of 2019

I am grateful to Ramapo College for providing me with the opportunity to afford a US education through scholarships and on-campus jobs. At Ramapo, I was able to pursue my interest in research by getting involved in multiple research projects under the guidance of Dr. Yan Xu. My volunteering experience in the Biology lab (Kamil Starczak, Dr. Susan Petro) helped me develop experimental skills that have been critical in my on-going graduate education at the University of Georgia where I am pursuing a PhD in Bioinformatics. Thanks to Dr. Paramjeet Bagga, I was able to pursue a rare undergraduate degree in bioinformatics which has prepared me tremendously for my graduate studies. It was fun times when I would have to go to an algorithms class after microbiology. Due to the small class size, I was able to foster strong relationships with my professors. The immense support from Dr. Sandra Suarez during my application process to graduate schools cannot be understated. She took several hours out of her busy schedule to work on my personal statement. I still remember the time I learned about the modularity of proteins when I took the “Protein Structure, Function & Modeling” class with Dr. Ashley Stuart. From that moment onwards, I wanted to learn everything I could about proteins. Now, I work in Dr. Natarajan Kannan’s lab studying the evolution of an ancient family of kinase known as FN3Ks. Outside of academics, I learned valuable social and communicational skills by working in the IT department. I will always remember our pick-up soccer games and how it got intense at times. More importantly, during the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Ramapo provided Nepalese international students with both emotional and financial support. And I will forever be thankful. During my time at Ramapo, I always felt welcomed and appreciated. It is truly a wonderful place to be in.

– Safal Shrestha, Ramapo College Class of 2017


Sweden

When I applied to Ramapo College, I did not know the impact this decision would have on my life and shape who I am today. I was interested in studying Political Science and International Relations but in an environment that was truly international. I also wanted to go to the US. I had long been fascinated by the history of the US, it’s values and the diversity of its citizens. At Ramapo College, I got a fantastic education. I was taught by professors who were not only knowledgeable but challenged and helped us students grow. I shared my experiences and perspectives with my American classmates, in and outside the classroom. In return, they taught me about their hometowns, shared their experiences and perspectives of being an American and views of the US. The interactions we had, I believe, enriched our time as college students. While my time at Ramapo was not without its challenges, the decision to study at Ramapo and in the US is one of the best decisions I have made.

I developed a strong bond and lifelong friendship with many of my professors, classmates, and the wider Ramapo College community. To this day, I am in touch with my mentor, professor Cliff Peterson. As a proud alumna, I continue to support the College and its students in a variety of ways. I speak with current students and serve on the School of Humanities and Global Studies Alumni Advisory Board. One of my favorite things to do is to return to campus and help Pat and Anne Chang in hosting international students for Thanksgiving. I enjoy meeting the current international students, listen to their stories, and share my experiences very much. We international students gain so much from studying in the US, but we also give back while we are students. After we graduate, we continue to give back as proud members of the alumni family. I am very thankful for my experience as an international student in the US and for the friends I made, and that is why I continue to give back. It is the least I can do for all I received.

-Vivian Nilsson-van Iperen, Ramapo College Class of 2000


United States

Having international students on campus was definitely a positive experience during my time at Ramapo. I met a lot of amazing, passionate and talented people during my four years at Ramapo, many of whom I still stay in touch with to this day, and that includes several international students. Making friends with international students was especially positive because they brought cultural perspectives I likely wouldn’t have been exposed to had I not had international classmates. Befriending and having genuine conversations with students of diverse nationalities taught me important things about other parts of the world that I couldn’t have learned from a book or movie or anywhere else. The fact that these students and I attended the same classes and shared the common experience of being a Ramapo student made all the difference in what we were able to share with and teach each other. I have many great memories of the times I spent with my international friends, and my Ramapo experience would not have been the same without those friendships.

—Laura French, Ramapo College Class of 2016

Alt Break trip to New Mexico

At Ramapo College of New Jersey, I majored in International Studies. The presence of international students on campus, along with the college’s focus on incorporating international perspectives, greatly enhanced my overall college experience. While I never got to study abroad, the on-campus activities, curriculum, professors and most importantly, the international students, at Ramapo College taught me to reach for goals at global scale, and encouraged me to be curious and open to new cultures. It allowed me to become a better global citizen.

—Brianne Kennedy, Ramapo College Class of 2015

I graduated Ramapo College in 2013. My time at school was largely impacted by international education as a whole, and by extension the international student population. I specifically remember a Global Roadrunners organized outing where study abroad alumni and international students grabbed lunch at a Dim Sum restaurant. The international students graciously helped us with ordering and provided explanations for all the different dishes we tried. It was my first time trying Dim Sum, but it certainly wasn’t my last (the next time – I was actually in Hong Kong!) I can certainly say that my time at Ramapo College was enriched by our international student community and influenced many of my future life decisions. I continued to meet individuals from a variety of countries, and now I am lucky enough to have wonderful friends scattered around the globe.

—Nicole Nidle, Ramapo College Class of 2013