GATOR SNAPSHORT: GATOR INTERNATIONAL
Updated: Aug 6
I came to Allegheny College from an international school in Germany. With a Canadian mother and Swedish father, I grew up as a third culture kid. I spent my life surrounded by other international students like me and I was scared that at a small college in Pennsylvania, I wouldn’t find the same kind of community that I was used to. Within my first week on campus however, I learned that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Each year at Allegheny College has presented new challenges, but given me such special memories as well.
With Savannah and our Allegheny mascot Chomper!
My first year on campus I met some of my best friends. My roommate Savannah is like me; she grew up in Hong Kong and has a strong international background. I was thankful to have someone understand the struggles I was facing, trying to adjust not only to college but, also to life back in the United States.
I spent the year growing close to many of the students in my international cohort- Alex the German TA and Rebecca the German exchange student (coincidentally from the city Bonn, in which I grew up) gave me the nostalgic comfort of home, and Tamara from Serbia became my study buddy. These friends taught me how important it was to embrace my own culture while adjusting to a new environment. Culture 2 Culture, a program run through the Allegheny College International Education Office, also helped me to adjust.
Many of the peer mentors including Gavi and Merryn, showed me opportunities in Meadville and on campus, and encouraged me to take them. Within my first year, I joined the Allegheny College Orchesis Dance Company, a sorority, and applied for a job as a Gator Guide for the Allegheny College Admissions Office. Never could have I imagined myself in these positions. While this year was filled with ups and downs, I learned to love all of the new experiences I had available to me.
My sophomore year was equally as memorable. I started the year as a Culture 2 Culture mentor myself. I wanted a chance to show international students how to make Allegheny their home. As we learned of the new countries students would be arriving from- I couldn’t help but brag to others. Despite being a small school, we had so many cultures represented and I was eager to learn from them all. I learned what life was like in Morocco from exchange student Badir, some Nepalese from my mentee Dakchyata, and all about Japan from Hiro. The International Education Office always keeps us busy with activities too. While we take the time to share all our various international experiences, they have also taught us the importance of embracing American culture. Each year, we all cook an American-style Thanksgiving dinner together. We select which dishes we will make and work as a large and diverse group to prepare the holiday meal, as we take the time to learn about American history, culture and traditions. It is an event I look forward to every year while admiring how our international family at Allegheny keeps growing.
My junior year at Allegheny did not start off on the most positive note. While I struggled with some personal challenges, I was thankful to know I had my ever-growing international Gator family behind me. This year I continued to participate in Culture 2 Culture and was in awe again, as I learned about new countries and cultures from the new international cohort. Ryan from Australia shared his global travel experiences, while Hanna from Vietnam taught me how to make Vietnamese iced coffee. I also held the first-ever Swedish table at the International Bazaar, an annual multicultural event where students from different countries prepare and share the food from their countries with the larger community, and host a cross-cultural talent show.
At the Swedish table (International Bazaar) -- offering a taste of Sweden to the campus and Meadville community members
While I have attended the International Bazaar every year and helped with the cooking in the past, I never had the courage to set up a table for Sweden. Without any other Swedish students on campus I was nervous about taking on all of the work and representing (one of) my home countries in the best way I could. Sure enough, my international family did not hesitate to step up and help me. Savannah from Hong Kong, Tamara from Serbia, and my good friend Cayley all spent hours with me in the kitchen preparing nearly 500 Swedish meatballs- or köttbullar, as we call them. I received compliments on them for days after the event. I enjoyed sharing my culture with the Allegheny community and know that I will always look back on that as one of my fondest memories of my time here.
As I prepare for my senior year at Allegheny, I look forward to the new students who will join the international community on campus. I know how nervous they will be. I am aware of the adjustments and struggles that they will go through. But, I am also confident that they will have their international Gator family to fall back on. I also sense the sadness we will feel as this year's graduating seniors, the Class of 2020, leaves us.
But above all, I know that even after I finish my studies at Allegheny College, my international Gator family will forever be a part of my life.
~~ Andrea Jonsson (Class of ’21)
Watch this video on why small-town college life at Allegheny College can be a unique and unforgettable experience:
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