In 2009, two Kenyan students came separately to America with a passion to earn a college degree. In a short matter of time, a mutual friend at community college introduced the two, and they’ve remained close ever since.
Their educational careers have led them both to Delta State, an institution they have quickly fallen in love with.
“It’s been a wonderful experience so far,” said Alice Koech, a pre-nursing student. “The people are so welcoming and have helped me so much to feel at home.”
Rosa Kamau, an aviation management major, shares many of the same sentiments.
“I’m very grateful for the support everyone has given us,” said Kamau. “It helps my parents to know that everyone has been making sure we’re comfortable here.”
Koech is now in her second semester of classes, while Kamau has only been on campus for a couple weeks with the start of the spring schedule. Yet both have quickly transitioned to Delta State thanks to the help of giving faculty, staff, students and community members.
The friends first learned about the university when they were enrolled at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Michigan. Kamau attended the national Phi Theta Kappa Convention in Tennessee, and it was there that she met Chris Gaines, director of recruiting at Delta State.
“Phi Theta Kappa is a great opportunity for two-year college students that leads to full tuition scholarships based on academic performance,” said Gaines. “Both Alice and Rosa met the qualifications — so it was really neat to meet one of them at the convention and eventually see them become students at Delta State.
“We stayed in touch throughout the application process, and it’s wonderful to witness them follow through and become a part of campus. It’s a very rewarding experience for everyone.”
Koech, a dedicated Christian, also took the initiative to contact local churches before she moved to Cleveland. She sent numerous emails and letters and managed to make a connection with Jondelyn Catlette, coordinator for the Canterbury Campus Ministry at the Calvary Episcopal Church.
From the moment Koech arrived at the bus stop in Cleveland, Catlette, Priest Sylvia Czarnetzky and other members of the church, have continued to help her with donations, gift cards, food, furniture and adjusting to life in her apartment.
“I just love watching how Alice has blossomed at school and in the Delta,” said Catlette. “She’s so overwhelmed with gratitude and has always been extremely thankful. For us in the church, it’s been such a giving experience.
“We are happy Rosa is here now too, and we look forward to watching them bloom at Delta State and in the community.”
Another support contact for the girls has been the International Student Services office on campus.
“It has been a pleasure to work with both Alice and Rosa throughout their admissions process and also once they arrived at Delta State,” said Elise Mallette, international student advisor. “This is Rosa’s first semester with us, but we are extremely excited she is here and to have the chance to spend time with her.
“As for Alice, she has adjusted extremely well to our unique Southern culture and with our other students, both international and domestic. I can honestly say I’ve never seen her without a huge smile.”
President William N. LaForge has been very vocal about increasing the international student population, which last year alone served students in 23 different majors. The Kenyan duo has already shown why LaForge strongly advocates for an international student body.
“We are definitely looking forward to learning more about Alice and Rosa’s culture, their international student perspective, and just the stories they will be able to tell us about things back home and in their travels,” added Mallette. “That’s one of the best parts of working with the international students — getting to hear about places and things that we may not ever get to see or experience ourselves.”
With Koech having a one-semester upper hand at Delta State, she’s already paying it forward to Rosa as she helps her friend settle in.
“So many people have helped me and now I can turn around and help Rosa,” said Koech. “The support here is a great example of the opportunities for international students. The Phi Theta Kappa scholarship makes it possible and all the support opens channels.
“Words can not express how thankful I am to everyone — but I can show this through my actions and by being a part of the community.”
To learn more about the international experience at Delta State, visit http://www.deltastate.edu/student-affairs/international-students.