Tuesday was an international day of sorts at Mount Airy Rotary as the club welcomed international students past and present.
The first international student at Surry Community College, Manuel Scenna, spoke to the group; William Gibson, a scientist working in Durham who attributes his success to Mount Airy Rotary, visited the club with his family.
“Without you, I wouldn’t be here,” Gibson said to the group. “ I thank Mount Airy Rotary Club for making my education a success.”
Gibson is working in Durham on a cure for malaria. He was denied a visa twice to travel from his home in Monrovia, Liberia, to study at Wake Tech and East Carolina University before Grace Moravian Church and the Rotarians stepped in to help him.
Manuel Scenna, the first international student to matriculate at Surry Community College, is a 20-year-old student from Lanciano, Italy, and his enrollment at the college is as much serendipity as anything else. Scenna was visiting his “mom’s boyfriend’s uncle” in Lewisville when he happened up on the college while exploring the area and was attracted by its affordable price.
He is interested in astronomy, a fact that distressed a few Rotarians and their guests, who expressed disappointment that Scenna was not from Tuscany and is not interested in the viticulture program at the college.
“I like wine,” he offered. But that line of thought didn’t go far as Scenna is too young to drink legally in this country, unlike his own.
“It is a laborious and arduous task,” Dr. David Shockley, SCC president, said on Friday, of the process of admitting students from other countries. “It took the better part of three years to admit our first international student.”
“First and foremost, our trustees made a decision to make it a part of our mission policy. Then, we had to follow all of the state and national guidelines.”
Shockley said the appropriate authorities had to visit the college and make sure they had the resources, personnel and facilities to take on the responsibility.
The rules for a student visa have changed considerably since 9/11, according to Shockley. “There are terrorist concerns. They don’t want students to enter the country and disappear. If a student stops attending class, you have to report that pretty quickly. You take on that responsibility, and they had to make sure we were capable of fulfilling the requirements.”
Shockley said he thinks exchange programs will be where the ability to accept international students will make the most difference, as the college had a successful exchange program with Brazil in the past, according to Shockley.
“In reality, I can’t imagine that we would have a bunch of students signing up from around the world. But there is interest in our niche programs, like viticulture. There is potential for an exchange program with Queensland College in Australia.”
“First we would get students prepared for international exposure. An exchange program would allow our students to experience another institution in another nation, and it would open the eyes of our students to the world.”
Meanwhile, the first international student is already adjusting to the ways of the United States. When the college’s dean of student services was going over possible clubs and activities he might be interested in, Frisbee was out.
“I’m not a dog. I’m not going to fetch,” said the Italian to the American.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.