On January 24, 2013, EARTH University inaugurated its 24th class year, welcoming 311 returning students, and 107 new students who comprise the 2013-2016 class. This new class of first-year students is the most diverse in the University’s history, representing 28 nations, including for the first time: Ethiopia, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
During the annual inaugural ceremony, the entering class, along with eight study- abroad students from Canada, France, Norway and the United States, carried flags of their home countries into a crowded Emory L. Cocke Auditorium. All in attendance heard speeches from student Jean Romé Malou (‘16, Senegal) and student council representative Ibukun Timothy Ayankojo (’14, Nigeria), both who echoed each other in referring to EARTH not just as a University, but also as an intercontinental family defined by respect, support, love, values and a common mission.
With a total of 418 students from 33 countries the EARTH family is more international than ever, giving these promising young leaders a dynamic cross-cultural learning community in which to develop a more holistic vision of the world.
Twenty-four of the new students come from non-Spanish-speaking countries. To help them prepare for the 2013 school year, EARTH brought them to campus several months prior to the start of the academic year for an intense crash-course in Spanish; the language of instruction. Working in small groups, these students practice their Spanish by complementing morning lessons with afternoon activities. At the EARTH coffee shop, students put to use their newest vocabulary with Aromas’ much-loved barista, Marcela Solano. “We learn new words every day, and we also practice them with our [host] families. That helps a lot,” said Lusekelo Mkuwi (’16, Tanzania) in Spanish.
Abigael Pertet (’16, Kenya), added that the Spanish Language Program gives them the opportunity to study not just the language, but other Costa Rican topics as well. The other students agreed with Abigael that being in Costa Rica has been interesting and full of new experiences, new friends, new food, and visits to new places. “But EARTH University is the most beautiful place in Costa Rica!” exclaimed Festus Guah (’16, Liberia) in Spanish.
Annet Mukamurenzi (’16, Rwanda) is proud to be representing Rwanda for the first time at EARTH. With a history marred by genocide and hardships, Annet says Rwanda is working hard as it pursues development and seeks reconciliation. Her presence on campus is “an opportunity for Rwanda. To have me become a leader of change, I count it as a blessing. I’m going to work hard and make every effort to represent my country, and to learn as much as I can to make my country proud,” she said.
These students have enjoyed a smooth transition thanks to the support from their host families, friends, and EARTH supporters helping these young adults take a step to fulfill their dreams. At the inauguration ceremony, EARTH President, Dr. José Zaglul reminded students: “We will measure your success as EARTH alumni not by how much money you make but instead by how much you give of yourself to society. This is the only thing we ask of you: change the world.”
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