College celebrates international connections with flag ceremony
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
During its annual observation of International Student Day, Seward County Community College/Area Technical School celebrated its out-of-country students, and all they bring to the community college.
“We’re very proud of our international students,” said SCCC/ATS president Duane Dunn. “Their presence adds a special dimension to our college. When I was a student at Colby Community College — and I won’t say how long ago that was — an international student was a kid from Mississippi. Having such diversity here at Seward gives all our students an extra advantage.”
When the college began to observe International Student Day, Dunn recalled, “we had eight flags up.”
Tuesday, SCCC/ATS placed another banner in the colorful array of more than 30 national flags that festoon the commons area. The bright red-, black-and-yellow flag of Belgium was added, thanks to the arrival of student Axelle Bernard, a freshman at SCCC/ATS.
Like many international students, Bernard has relied on a host family in Liberal to help her make the transition to life in the United States. Her host parents are Paul and Mary Larkin, who work as USD 480 superintendent of schools and instructional coach respectively.
That personal connection is often what eases the emotional toll for homesick students, helping them tough it out to find success in the classroom and the athletic programs in which they participate. Several students at Tuesday’s event have not been able to visit their families for more than two years, and said their Seward County host families fill the gaps.
“I’m actually going home to visit for the first time in two years,” said tennis standout Ronzai Saurombe of Zimbabwe. “I have one more semester here, and I’m willing to work hard and finish well."
International Student Organization sponsor Patsy Fischer, who, with her husband has hosted 13 students over the years, teared up a bit as she described the bonds of affection that form.
“They’ve become my own kids,” she said. “Our family is bigger because of them."
Students from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Guatemala, Japan, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Span and Zimbabwe stood beneath their national flags during the ceremony.
“Seward was my only option, so I came here,” confessed Lady Saints basketball standout Tamara Seba of Mozambique. “It turned out to be the right place for me. I am really thankful for the people I’ve met here. It’s such a warm, friendly country.”
Australian teammate Rebekah Hatchard agreed.
“It’s really nice here, though it’s a lot smaller than my home of Adelaide,” she said. “That was hard to get used to, but it’s really nice and it feels like family."
Several students performed dance and musical numbers for the audience of more than 200 people who attended the event. French national Arthur Courbis played an improvisational piano piece, and a trio of Brazilian students performed a dance number to pop music from their home country.
Sachie Shiba sang a Japanese rendition of the Kansas classic “Home on the Range,” accompanying herself on piano.
“I learned this song when I was in eighth grade, in Japan,” she said. “When I came to school here, I was excited to find it is a famous song of Kansas.”
Student Huang Chieng, a student who once performed in a classic rock band in Vietnam, also played piano and sang in Chinese. His song, “I am a Little Bird,” described the emotions of hopelessness and ambition that a caged bird might feel. Thanks to the opportunities provided by SCCC/ATS, Combs pointed out, many international students are able to escape the barriers that hold them back in their home countries.
“If you read the lyrics to the song he sang, it’ll give you chills,” Combs said.
Students from the SCCC/ATS Colvin Adult Education Center also participated in the ceremony, introducing themselves in newly-minted English and broad smiles for the welcome they received.