International Students Reflect on NDA Experience

Emily Gibson, Staff Writer

The first thing most people notice as they walk into the atrium at NDA are the flags of 13 nations, including our own. These flags represent the international students who come to learn at Notre Dame.

On average, there are about 30 students every year from foreign nations. This year there are 29.

Every international student is represented by his or her flag in the atrium. Students have come from South Korea, Spain, Hungary, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Czech Republic, Austria, Vietnam, China and Japan.

“Each student has a unique story of what brought them here, what keeps them here and where they are going once they leave NDA,” Associate Director of Admission, Sarah VanGrunsven said. “I enjoy getting to know all of them and making sure they have a positive experience here at NDA.”

The international program has been going on at NDA for over ten years.

International students at NDA add variety to the student body. They offer different backgrounds and experiences.

Students at NDA can learn a lot about a different culture. Some travel across the world and others never have to leave their hometown.

“I got to know a lot, visit new places and meet new people,” junior international student from Latvia, Estere Fomina said.

Fomina decided to become a foreign exchange student because her sister had done so in the past.

“My oldest sister was a Global Outreach Exchange student in Madison,” Fomina said. “She told me it was one of her best years overall, that she had a lot of experience in learning things no one could teach, and lots of self growing. I was hoping for the same!”

Leaving home for so long is a challenge for many international students.

“I realize how important my family and friends are to me,” Fomina said.

When coming to America, international students are given a host family. The host family is who they live with during the duration of their stay.

“Before I came, I honestly wasn’t expecting a really close link with my future host family,” Fomina said. “I’m lucky to have such a nice host family that treats me like one of their own. Now they are my best friends.”

Host families choose to house foreign exchange students for a variety of reasons.

“We were approached to do it by friends who said it was a great experience, and found a girl that was around one of our daughter’s age,” former host parent, Kathy Gibson said. “We had the room, and we were assured that there would be help for hosting her.”

Lots of rules and officials are set up so that the international student and the host family has a positive experience.

“She was so well-behaved, respectful and delightful to have in our home,” Gibson said. “She got along with our whole family. She shared what she knew about her country and was very open to learning about ours. We got to know her very well and became very close.”

Most international students come to America during their sophomore year in high school.

“Our student was very excited to learn about teen culture in America and becoming fluent in English,” Gibson said. “She was very excited when she had her first dream in English.”

The international student program at NDA opens doors to learning about different cultures and promotes positive foreign relationships.