Despite being an unpopular choice among commuter students, Res. Life at GGC continues to remain the home of a diverse population of international students.
Since beginning its involvement with the Georgia Rotary Student Program (GRSP) in 2014, an organization that sponsors 60 international students to study at the university level in Georgia for one academic year, GGC has contributed funding for the availability of three cultural scholarships to be awarded each year. The scholarships, which cover tuition and book expenses, require every recipient to live on-campus.
The convenience of the dorms was the first thing that stuck out to Alice Harting, one of the two scholarship recipients from Sweden this year.
“I like living so close to the classes and having friends next door,” said Harting. “In Sweden, I commuted about one hour one way to school. My school friends lived between thirty minutes and two hours away, so whenever we would hang out, it almost had to be in the city.”
For Victoria Lindwert, the second recipient from Sweden, living on-campus gives her a level of privacy that she did not expect to receive when she arrived in the U.S.
“Living with such a diverse group of people is definitely a plus,” said Lindwert. “I am very thankful as an international student to have a room for myself. That is, after all, my only real home in America and sometimes it can be nice to just close the door and be on your own.”
In addition to covering the costs of room and board, the GRSP establishes a network of host families for each scholarship recipient. Students are encouraged to travel to the homes of their host families during the weekends to gain a better understanding of the American way of living.
“I have three very hospitable host families that live in Hartwell, Elberton and Royston,” said Lindwert. “I get to spend holidays with them. I also see Alice’s host families since they live closer. So, this year I have like 7 mothers checking in on me!”
Not all international students that live on-campus are sponsored by the GRSP. Onovugakpor “Timi” Peters, a junior and senior RA from Nigeria, has lived on-campus for two-and-a-half years and currently works as a Senior RA.
“When I first came down here, everyone was doing their own thing,” said Peters. “I was very by myself during my first semester here.”
Much like the GRSP students, Peters’ transition from his Nigerian culture to the American culture was difficult. His misunderstandings of social norms led him to isolate himself and prevented him from being forward with people at first.
“When I came over here, I didn’t just see Americans,” said Peters. “Back in Africa people would say, ‘Oh you’re white. You’re black. Bet [sic], let’s party,’ but over here it’s more hands on. I told my friend that the first day I came to America, I knew I was black. I don’t know how but I knew that I was black. People here shed light more on that aspect than just being a human.”
For Lindwert, the trouble laid within her sudden deprivation of transportation.
“The worst part of living on campus is the difficulty of being dependent on other people to get transportation,” said Lindwert. “I do not have a vehicle on campus and I feel like I have lost my independence! In Sweden, I was used to taking the bike, the train, and sometimes the car.”
Despite their opposition to the inevitable inconveniences of living in the dorms, Harting, Lindwert and Peters speak highly of their experiences of living on-campus as international students.
“I actually moved to the US because I wanted to start fresh,” said Peters, who plans to return to Nigeria to revisit his family and his roots. “I wanted to be a new person and have that completely change me as a person. So coming here and being an RA made me open-minded and made me more trainable and aware. I had to learn on the fly—especially culture shock.”
Lindwert, who will begin her formal education in Sweden after the semester ends and seeks to work towards a master’s in industrial economy engineering, speaks highly of her experiences at GGC and her involvement with student life, particularly the Honors program.
“The whole idea of GRSP is that we will go home to our countries with a better understanding of the world and help promote community and world peace in our countries,” said Lindwert. “It sounds very idealistic, but I have learned a lot I can use later in life.”