Confession is good for the soul, so I am coming clean. Theologians deem pride a sin. As a college freshman, I sinned. As an introvert who could have cocooned in my childhood home and enrolled at the local university, I was sinfully proud of myself that I found the fortitude to move 150 miles from home to attend college. My life’s path has forever been shaped in a meaningful direction as a result.
Can you imagine being a young man or woman and coming literally halfway around the world to attend college? Imagine moving into an environment where the culture is completely foreign, and for many, the language spoken is not your native tongue. That is the reality for the large number of international students on the Davis & Elkins College campus.
We are blessed at D&E to have 17% of our student body coming to the Randolph County mountains from 42 countries located on six continents. This is the largest number of countries ever represented among our student body. I admire these students whose sense of adventure and willingness to immerse themselves in a new culture is an opportunity I never experienced, because I was not as brave nor as bold.
Last week I joined a group of faculty and staff, along with a throng of students, for the annual flag-raising ceremony. This valued campus tradition witnessed 42 international flags processed up the hill to Liberal Arts Hall. As the corresponding national anthem played, proud students carried their home country’s flag to its holder as the stars and stripes waved overhead. This college president stood gratefully as we celebrated our unity within our diversity. It is what makes the living and learning environment at this small educational institution so unique and impactful.
Listening to the list of countries present on this campus is a geography lesson. Not surprisingly, Canada, Mexico, and several western European countries are well represented. Many of the remaining countries may come as more of a surprise. A sampling would include China, Cyprus, Guatemala, Iceland, India, Israel, Lithuania, New Zealand, Peru, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Tunisia, Turkey, and Uruguay.
When first-year student Sahar Golov arrived at Davis & Elkins College, he found himself in a very different environment than his hometown of Ramat Hasharon, Israel. He shared that the warm and close-knit D&E community welcomed him with open arms. Sahar quickly formed connections with fellow students and soccer teammates, some of whom also had their roots in different corners of the globe. He was amazed by the diversity of backgrounds and perspectives that enriched his college experience, along with the faculty and staff that have reached out to support him as he transitions to collegiate life and embracing new aspects of his identity as a D&E Senator.
Sahar and his fellow international students add so much to the mosaic that is the D&E campus. Together with his classmates from across West Virginia and the United States, he is the beneficiary of an innovative and energetic environment that encourages students to discover their vocation and attain the knowledge and skills for meaning and success in life. On the grounds of this campus, that is populated by people from across the globe, life journeys intersect, and opportunity abounds.
The journey continues….
Chris A. Wood
Davis & Elkins College