International South African students share their experiences

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Aubreanna Miller, News Editor

Out of the 17 international students from South Africa at Wayne, five, including Starrion Fenn, Luke Buchner, Nyashadzashe Mumeno, Vuyo Mdlalose and Ethan Van Heerden give insight into their experiences.

Wayne State College welcomed 45 new international students this year, moving the total number to around 100 on campus.

Amy Albrecht, Office Assistant Three in the Admissions Office, has been working with international students for around seven years. Albrecht is the main person that these students go to with their questions, paperwork, and everything in between.

Albrecht said, “Some of these students I have been communicating with for eight to ten months before they arrive. My favorite part is when I get to see them when they finally arrive on campus and can put a face to the name. I feel like I’ve known them for so long because I’ve been emailing them, but when you finally see their faces, you get to see that all of their hard work has paid off.”

International students come to America because of the pull for better opportunities. Albrecht understands that Wayne is a great match for these students for many reasons.

“We are a smaller, welcoming community and we’re affordable. With all of the programs that we have to offer, they really have the choice to pursue what it is they really want to do in life.”

International students must go through all the same processes as regular students, but there are a few extra steps.

“We have a lot of students from warm climates, so we have students that aren’t used to Nebraska winters. We have to explain what life is like here on campus, give them tips, help them purchase bedding. It can be scary coming halfway across the world in a place that you aren’t familiar with, [we] just put their minds at ease and tell them they made the right decision,” said Albrecht.

Starrion Fenn is from a suburb of Johannesburg, known as Randburg. Fenn came to America to study pre-medicine, travel, and experience diverse ways of life.

Fenn said, “I’ve been asked why I chose Wayne, but it was more that Wayne chose me. They showed interest in my future and my achievements and offered me a place as a Wildcat.”

Back home, he attended an all-boys high school called King Edward VII School.

“King Edward VII School holds a record for the most schoolboys that died at war in South Africa, so to commemorate that, we hold marches where the students, along with school band, dedicate the 11 of November to those who died, by marching and hosting ceremonies,” said Fenn.

Countless aspects of American culture have baffled Fenn, including the fact that there are no walls around our homes, drive-through ATMs, the big food, guns in sport stores, self-check-out stations, free refills in restaurants and how friendly people are.

Luke Buchner, born and raised in Johannesburg, which he refers to as Jozi, studies Engineering and Technology. He feels privileged to be from South Africa, saying the culture and passion of the people are unmatched.

His career goals are to work for a Formula One race team, work for an automobile manufacturer, or to open his own engineering firm.

“The process of applying to Wayne State College was a lot easier than I thought it would be. If it wasn’t for Amy Albrecht in the Admissions Department, I would have definitely had a much harder time applying to college. The college stepped up and helped us with as much as they possibly could. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity the college has given me to further my education and pursue my passion in rugby,” said Buchner.

Nyashadzashe Mumeno is from an oceanfront city known for its mountains and breathtaking scenery called Cape Town.

Out of high school, Mumeno studied in the UK for a year and a half before having to return home because of the pandemic. Being able to travel and attend school again has been a relief for him.

“I have been dreaming about this for a while. I feel like this is my land where I’m gonna prosper. Where I can really grow beyond myself,” Mumeno said.

Currently, he is majoring in information technology, but his future plans include representing the United States rugby team in the World cup and starting an organization that brings innovation and education to South Africa.

“We’ve been privileged that the one percent get to come overseas, so I want to take education back to the 99 percent,” Mumemo said.

Living in Wayne has been a culture shock compared to the fast-paced, big city life of Cape Town and London. Mumemo said that in Wayne, he has learned to appreciate the little things.

One thing that he misses about home is the atmosphere.

“I miss the African vibe. The one thing in Africa that we always do is greet each other. If I see you and I don’t know you, I’ll be like good morning! Even if we don’t know each other we find ways to be warm to each other. Here, people are quite reserved,” Mumemo said.

Vuyo Mdlalose, from a suburb of Johannesburg, compared the city to New York City. He described it as lively, claiming that you bump into people from anywhere in the world.

As the first person in his family to go to college, he hopes to get a degree in architecture. After college, he looks forward to helping with and expanding his dad’s business which sells materials to construction companies.

Mdlalose also attended King Edward VII School. The specific rules and traditions of the school have been in place for around 100 years said Mdlalose. Uniform guidelines were especially strict. They were taught to have pride in their attire. Students cannot wear their blazers if they forgot their tie and if they happened to get into a fight, they were sure to take off their blazers and ties first.

Every house in South Africa has a wall around it. Crime rates are so high that not having a wall is completely unheard of.

“If you don’t have a wall, you have a fence. My house has a wall, I think it’s a two-meter-high wall with an electric fence above it. The crime where I am from is really, really bad. But the crime where I am from is not caused by the same reasons that you guys have crime here. I feel like your guys’ crime is more like a culture thing. Whereas where I’m from, the crime is so high because people are hungry,” Mdlalose said.

Something that shocked Mdlalose was the privilege that most American kids don’t realize that they have.

“I noticed this the first day I walked into the cafeteria. You know that tablet that is by where you put your plates? I noticed so many people pressing the sad face. I looked at them and was like you don’t know what you just did. You had full plates, after that plate you had ice cream, you had juice, you could go back for seconds, thirds, you could grab a bag of Doritos, or a banana and go back and eat it in your own room. Whereas kids back home, rely on two meals. One that they get at school and one that they get at home for supper. And that meal is not a proper meal, you probably get like bread and peanut butter,” said Mdlalose.

Ethan Van Heerden is from Gauteng, one of the main provinces that acts as a business center. Van Heerden has chosen to major in sports management and hopes to coach rugby. For two years out of high school, he coached rugby and water polo at his old school.

Saying he is still in the honeymoon phase of his travel, Van Heerden doesn’t miss home quite yet. Two things that have stunned him about America are that we drive on the wrong side of the road and that we are super nice.

“A lot of people are really friendly here. The other rugby players that are from America have welcomed us into their house really well which has made things a lot more comfortable,” said Van Heerden.

Albrecht said she loves learning about all the different cultures and getting to know the students because they are such a fun group. She hopes to bring more international students to Wayne in the future.

Nyashadzashe Mumeno had one last message that he wanted everyone to know, “All the guys from South Africa are handsome.”