Home away from home: international students at Butler

by Emily Beckman

According to Amber Prieb, an international specialist at Butler of El Dorado, the international student population of BCC fluctuates yearly.

“This year we have a little over 200 student visa holders, and that’s higher than it’s been for quite a few years,” Prieb says.

While she says the exact numbers for the school year have not yet been determined, there are under 50 international students at the El Dorado campus, of which 20-25 are athletes. The rest of the 200 students attend classes in Andover.

“Most of the students that we have in El Dorado are the ones who might be athletes or on scholarship, but the vast majority of international students attend Andover or they might commute and do both campuses,” Prieb says.

International Student Association
A team leader of the International Student Association (ISA), Aboubakar Diabo, describes ISA as “the bridge between the school and international students.”

Each semester, ISA holds an event. In the fall, it is an international food and music night. In the spring, it is a booth at the Spring Fling event, where students represent their country through flags, traditional clothing and more.

“The main goal of all of that is always to try to share our culture,” Diabo says.

The club also strives to help international students feel secure.

“We try to let them know that whoever is sad, they are not alone and we are in this together,” Diabo says. “Whoever feels homesick [and] is far away from his parents, is not in that alone; we are together in that and we try to support [each other].”

Meet a few international students:

Valeria Kostiuk
After studying for a year and a half in her home country, Valeria Kostiuk, an international student from Kiuv, Ukraine, came to Butler in order to be a student-athlete more easily.

“It was impossible to practice at the same time,” she says of her experience at Linguistics University.

Kostiuk is now on Butler’s track team as a high jumper and is majoring in management and marketing. After Butler, she plans to transfer to a university and continue with track.

Kostiuk explains that being an international student helps to build character and personality. She enjoys the opportunity to meet new people and learn more about a culture. However, she often faces challenges related to language.

“I’m still struggling in speaking actually, because of the difference in language,” Kostiuk says. “It’s sometimes really difficult to speak and make friends; it’s difficult to express your thoughts in a different language.”

Aboubakar Diabo
The first thing that caught Aboubakar Diabo’s attention when he moved to Kansas was how spread out things were, as opposed to his home of Pointe-Noire, Congo.

Diabo came here in January of 2014 to get an education. He first studied at Wichita State University to learn English, before beginning his studies at Butler.

“I am from a very small country,” Diabo says. “The place where I’m from, it’s a very social place. I always had family and friends around me, whenever I needed help or when I was a little bit worried about something.”

This, he says, is what motivated him to become a team leader of the International Student Association at Butler.

Olivier Ndikumana
Travel has proven to be a major part of Olivier Ndikumana’s life, allowing him to become fluent in three languages: Kinyawanda, English and French, experience different cultures and inspire him to become a pilot.

Due to his family often moving from country to country in Africa with his dad’s position at Catholic Relief Services, Nkidumana has lived in Rwanda, Guinea, Benin and Haiti.

“Now I can’t imagine myself just living in a country for a very long time; I just want to keep moving,” Nkidumana says. “That’s probably one of the reasons I want to become a pilot, and if that doesn’t work out I want some job that lets me travel.”

At Butler, he is taking general classes, but his intended major is computer science. Going to class, working as a tutor, doing homework and sleeping have become his routine.

Nkidumana likes Butler, especially the El Dorado campus, because there are little distractions, allowing him to focus fully on school. Fittingly, his favorite aspect of the college is the Library.

 Holly Stewart
Freshman Holly Stewart of Aberdeen, Scotland came to Butler for the opportunity to play soccer at the college level.

“I played at home at club level and I just wanted to see how far I could get with it,” she says. “We don’t have soccer opportunities at home so I thought college level over here would help me develop as a player.”

Stewart plays center midfield and is currently a liberal arts major. She hopes to get offers from Division 1 or Division 2 schools after BCC, and finish her degree.

Though she is far from home, she has her team and the International Student Association to keep her busy. In addition, since she is an international student, she had the opportunity to get a host family.

“Having a host family really does help me,” Stewart says. “Because my first week here, that was the big change. It was so different for me and it was hard.”

She explains that her host family provides her with a place to go anytime she wants to get out of the dorms, needs to study or is missing her family.

“My host parents are great; they are so open to anything I need,” Stewart says.

Shevon Blair
Wednesdays are “Jamaica day” for Shevon Blair, who wears black, green and gold, his country’s colors, from head to toe.

He says he does this to differentiate himself from other students, and remember his roots.

“It serves as a reminder … to know that I came here for a purpose,” Blair says.
Blair runs track for Butler, and has his eye on the Olympics. In addition, his goal is to eventually own his own electrical company in Jamaica.

“That’s something I want to do, to be able to give back to the community where I’m from and provide jobs,” Blair says.

He likes the resources that are available at Butler, and enjoys some aspects of Kansas. However, he misses the palm trees and beaches of Jamaica and says the weather here has been the biggest challenge.

“When the sun is not up and it’s cold, I’m miserable; I’m a sun person,” Blair says. “When the sun is up, I’m alive. That’s where my energy comes from.”


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