MVC program helps international students feel at home in Marshall

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bulgarian native Ralitsa Gospodinova, communications and marketing graduate assistant at Missouri Valley College, said many international students at MVC would rather leave Marshall than finish their college careers here.

"I have a lot of friends that I've made here, but they come, they want to learn the language, play a sport, and then just leave," Gospodinova said. "What happens is when you get here, you spend a year in a dorm room and you don't really get to learn anything about America."

There are approximately 150 international students enrolled at MVC each year. Most of them, Gospodinova said, have no family, no vehicle and spend every day of every year in college virtually stuck in a dorm room. If an international student needs something or wants to do something fun, his or her best bet is to walk all over town until they find it, she said.

"I walked to Walmart," Gospodinova said. "It didn't matter if it was 100 degrees outside, raining or snowing, there was no other way for me to get to Walmart, so I just had to walk. The same goes for a lot of my international classmates. We always struggle getting places and getting to know American culture, how people live, how people spend their days."

Adopt a Viking, a new program at MVC for international students, however, seeks to solve this issue. The program, which is currently seeking participants, will pair foreign students with host families in hopes the student can get more acclimated to the American -- and more specifically to Marshall's -- way of life.

"It's really important for the college to help retain these kids," said program coordinator John Hall. "What we've been doing is helping the kids, making them feel like they are a part of the community, making them feel welcomed."

The first version of the program started a few years ago through MVC's international club. The program, however, was more informal and slowly died down.

"The college established the program several years ago, but over time, community participation has waned," according to a MVC news release. "Smith Chapel United Methodist Church in Marshall has been unofficially sponsoring international students from MVC for the past several years and hopes to get more community members involved."

Hall now hopes to pair each of the 30 new international freshmen coming to MVC this year with a family that will offer them support. A host family has no financial responsibility to the student, and the student would still live at MVC's dorm rooms.

"Host families are expected to help ease the transition to college, provide a support system for the students and help them experience American family lifestyles and traditions," MVC's news release stated. "Host families and students must complete a background information sheet; the Adopt-A-Viking committee will then match families and students based on their interests. In addition, the host family will be required to have a background check done to ensure the safety of all students. The host family will be responsible for the cost of the background check, but will have no financial responsibility to the students."

Gospodinova said sometimes all the student needs is someone to talk to.

"It's enough to just pick up the phone and and say, 'Hey I need to talk," Gospodinova said. "'I need to tell you about my day. I had a good day. I had a bad day. I need to vent, because it's hard to be so far away from home and have nobody to talk to.'"

Anyone interested in hosting an international student through the Adopt-A-Viking program may contact MVC's admissions office at 660-831-4080.

Contact Carlos Restrepo at crestrepo@marshallnews.com

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: