A Home Far, Far Away from Home
Written by Giannina Imperial
How far will a good college education take you? Or, how far away will it take you? Some Hillsdale College students have come from distant countries and diverse cultures to study here. What brings such a range of people to our small liberal arts college in southern Michigan?
Monicah Wanjiru, ’18 from Kenya, is one international student who decided that spending many months at a time away from her family to study at Hillsdale was worth it. She had heard about the College from a Kenyan alumna in a conference back home and was convinced to take what she calls a “leap of faith” into Hillsdale life, which is filled with its own unique set of challenges if you come from abroad.
“When I first arrived, I expected to experience culture shock but not to the degree that I did,” Monicah said. “Everything was different: from the shade of blue in the sky to writing style in my English classes.”
Communication proved difficult initially. Some students had a difficult time understanding her accent, which made social interactions uncomfortable and unnatural. But despite these challenges, Monicah was welcomed into Hillsdale with open arms by her fellow students. This gave her a solid foundation of support from which to plunge into Hillsdale’s intense but fulfilling atmosphere.
“I felt welcome here from the time I arrived and have been well-loved by many who have opened their homes to me during school breaks. Through deep friendships that have transcended cultural and geographic boundaries, my faith has grown immensely.”
Monicah has thrived in Hillsdale’s challenging culture. As a biology major, she successfully proves herself as a competitive force in the sciences. She is also the coordinator of the GOAL organization’s High Rise program, for which she coordinates visits to the community’s elderly with a group of student volunteers.
Though the American heritage might seem a strange subject to require international students to take, it has allowed Monicah to encounter new perspectives about her own culture.
“It is challenging to attend a school that focuses primary on American values. However, choosing to study abroad means choosing a foreign life and a foreign education— precisely why I came to Hillsdale. I wanted to immerse myself into something different, to learn the origin, the history, and the culture.”
Most importantly, Monicah’s experience abroad has nurtured in her an appreciation for her own culture, allowing her to understand “the global context in which African history sits.”
A thorough education does not just teach the contents of its curriculum. It calls its students to dig deeper and to find how the lessons taught not only apply to the microcosms of society, but to the entire world and the variety of cultures within it—lessons that Monicah has learned to love and to teach others.
“I would absolutely recommend Hillsdale to other international students,” she said. “Being a minority and struggling with culture shock are challenges worth overcoming for this kind of education.”
Giannina Imperial, ’18, is a psychology major and biology minor from Jackson, MI. If she isn’t in the Psychology Suite running research participants or in AJ’s immersed in her biology textbooks, you’ll find her in the music hall for one of the dozen rehearsals she’ll have that day. She loves God, neuroscience, dancing like no one’s watching, getting ice cream with friends, and trying out every Filipino recipe in her mother’s arsenal of cookbooks.