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Freshmen 15: tales of transition to Berea - part 2

In the second of our two-part series, we explore the stories of the last eight of our 15 first-year students as they share the tales of their transition to Berea College. Click here to read part 1.

First-year students share their stories of transition.

8. Alisha Alexander
Edmondton, KY

Alisha learned about Berea from her sister’s friend who graduated from Berea in 2007. Alisha has found her own transition not too difficult, but has found the curriculum to be more challenging than she anticipated.

She is also learning for the first time how to get up early on her own and manage her time. To stay on course, Alisha brought books with her from authors like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer to help her navigate through her first few weeks at Berea.

She shares that her books “really help her to get through the day and help make the day a little brighter” during the times when she finds herself feeling a little sad.

Alisha plans to major in Nursing.

9. Bangha Gilbert

Gilbert, who will be attending Berea for the next four years, has come to Berea from Northern Cameroon. Gilbert’s brother, Genesis Song attended Berea and recently graduated in May 2009. But Gilbert actually heard about Berea from the internet while he was researching schools that would help him rise above his current economic situation. When Gilbert told Genesis that he wanted to come to Berea, his brother was amused. Gilbert, who had only seen his brother briefly during vacations for the past several years, knew that his brother was attending school in the United States, but was unaware that his brother was attending Berea. Genesis warned Gilbert that Berea had not been known to take more than one student from his school’s exchange program, but encouraged Gilbert to apply anyway. After being accepted and struggling to get his papers in order, Gilbert arrived in Berea one week before school started and was briefly reunited with his brother.

“It’s a hard nut to crack, but I think I’m able to crack it. It’s not easy to switch from one system to another. It’s a completely different kind of setup. And being here compared to being home is difficult. I miss my home (and my people) so much. So I think that the transition has not been an easy one, but I have had the power to overcome some of the difficulties that it took. So I am going to be strong.”

When asked what he brought to Berea which has helped ease his transition, Gilbert shared the following:

“The only thing I brought from home was not material, but the advice that I got from my parents; that I should be a good boy, study hard and I should learn to accept anything the way that I see it. That is what has been helping me here, so much.”

Gilbert plans to pursue his degree in Nursing.

10. Yeshi Tsomo
Tibetan Expatriate living in India

Yeshi, who grew up in India, recently studied in East Sussex, England for two years on scholarship. Yeshi heard about Berea from some of her school’s seniors, and decided to apply after she heard that Berea had a reputation for being generous to international students.

Yeshi has described her new transition to Berea as “So far, so good.” She’s been enjoying her time here, but admits that being the only child in her household, she occasionally gets homesick. To help make her time here easier, Yeshi talks to her mom every weekend and has hung her Tibetan prayer flags up on her dorm room wall.

“I talk to my mom every weekend and put those things up (pointing to her prayer flags). This makes me feel okay.... I pray in our language. I pray every now and then and it makes me feel attached to home.”

Yeshi has also found comfort in the fact that there are other Tibetans at Berea College who have gone through similar transitions. But she is also happy to have met other new people and made friends who help keep her from being homesick.

Yeshi hopes to pursue a major in Psychology.

11. Vyacheslav “Slava” Korobeynikov
Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Slava comes to Berea from Uzbekistan, where he studied at the Tashkent International School. He wanted to continue his education on scholarship outside Uzbekistan. Slava was introduced to Berea through his school’s academic advisor.

“I think that because I’ve been studying in a similar based system means that it has been easier for me than for other kids. But the fact that I’m losing my hair says that it is actually a very stressful time. But I think it’s getting better. The fact that I’m a 16-hour flight away from home can bring a lot of stressful moments, but I’m getting better with it.”

Slava brought his national dresses from Uzbekistan and other mementos that represent the different aspects of his life sacred to him back in Uzbekistan. The dress is called a “chapan” and the hat he wears with it is known as a “tubiteyka.”

He tries to talk as frequently as he can with his family through Skype on the laptop he has received from Berea's EDGE laptop program. Slava also found a little bit of luck when one of the upperclassmen showed him how to install Cyrillic language support on his laptop so that he could type Russian and keep in touch with his friends and loved ones. He also uses other applications like Facebook and email to keep in touch with his friends back home.

Slava plans to pursue a degree in Economics.

12. Gloria Reina
U.S. resident from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Gloria Reina, who is originally from the DRC, moved to the U.S. nine years ago. After living in Kentucky for the past two years, Gloria heard about Berea from a friend who is a current student here. Gloria uses her cell phone to keep in touch with her friends and family from back home whenever she gets homesick.

She shares, “It’s kind of good but hard at the same time. The classes -- I have to get used to having so much homework. But it’s really fun meeting people like these two girls here (pointing to her friends). We’re good friends now. So that helps.”

Gloria plans to pursue a double major in Biology and Chemistry. She grins as she shares, “I know it’s going to be hard, but I’m determined.”

13. Ivan Titaley
Indonesia/ New Hampshire

Ivan, who originally came from Indonesia, has been living in New Hampshire for the past ten months. Ivan heard about Berea from his pastor and his pastor’s wife. Ivan’s pastor is a native of Lexington, KY and suggested that Ivan apply to Berea.

Aside from the New Hampshire winters, Ivan has enjoyed his time in the United States. He has found that students at Berea have been helpful introducing him to the American culture and improving his understanding of the English language.

To help ease his transition, Ivan brought his Indonesian-English dictionary. He shares that he didn’t really bring much from back home except some clothes that remind him of home, but has found that his dictionary has been instrumental in helping him adjust.

Ivan is still undecided about what he wants to pursue as a major, but he is currently considering a degree in Environmental Studies.

14. Ryan Fortenberry,
Somerset, KY

Ryan heard about Berea from his mom and uncle who attended Berea. Living only 45 minutes away has given Ryan the opportunity to grow up visiting Berea’s craft fairs and community events which made him want to come to Berea. Ryan has found that using his Berea laptop has helped to ease his transition to Berea because it allows him to store pictures and keep in touch with friends and family from back home.

He does admit, however, “Well, the first week was rough. Because I came early for soccer [trials]. I felt more alone, because not many people had arrived yet. But once people got here, and I started meeting people. [Now] I like it here better than home. I get more work done because we’re in a dorm room and I have study time without the distractions of family and friends all the time.”

Ryan wants to participate in the dual degree program for pre-engineering where he will spend three years at Berea taking a more diverse curriculum of classes before transferring to the University of Kentucky to finish his Engineering degree.

15. Joshua Hall

Joshua, who lived in Texas for 17 years, recently moved to Berea from his short stay in Bland, Virginia. Joshua heard about Berea from his two uncles who live near Berea. While reflecting upon his transition, Joshua delightfully shares, “Some of the classes are actually easier. I have a couple that I’m really struggling with, but I’m trying to challenge myself. In high school I wasn’t really pushed at all and I think this will be good for me.”

Besides bringing his Texan accent, Joshua brought his optimism to the Berea College campus. When asked what he brought that has helped him to ease the transition, Joshua responded with, “not a thang, because if I got homesick I could just look at the map. Texas takes up a good portion of it.”

Joshua plans upon pursuing his degree in Biology.

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