As the fall 2010 semester ends, the Clayton State University community is saying farewell to its first international students from its bilateral exchange process. After a busy semester of academics and American culture, it is time for Zsofia Terek and Mariam Chubinidze to fly back across the Atlantic Ocean to their respective families. The young ladies will be missed by faculty, staff and students at the University.
“This was an experience of a lifetime,” Terek and Chubinidze say in unison and giggle. It is clear that the ladies have developed a friendship during their semester abroad in America together.
Terek, a graduating senior from the University of Pannonia in Veszprem, Hungary, was overwhelmed by the “southern hospitality” offered by the Clayton State community. As a first-time traveler to the United States, she didn’t expect to meet life-long friends so quickly.
“Everybody has been very welcoming and warm,” she says.
Her roommate Chubinidze, from Georgian American University in Tbilisi, Georgia agrees.
“I enjoyed that people were interested about my country and culture,” she shares. During the last week of finals, several university students surprised the ladies with a going-away party in the dorm. It was the last time for the ladies to share their experience and culture with their Clayton State classmates.
The stellar scholars had no problem exceeding in the classroom at Clayton State. For Terek, 23, the quantity of work at Clayton State was more then she was used to but prefers the additional assignments.
“The workload really makes sure that you learn and not just memorize information,” she says. Fortunately, both ladies adjusted smoothly and were able to practice in a few American and Georgian classics. The ladies even completed prestigious internships in order to receive the total American college-student experience.
John Parkerson, Clayton State director of International Programs, designed a program filled with learning activities inside and outside the classroom. Parkerson, along with assistance from other faculty and staff, arranged for the ladies to attend the top Atlanta attractions and sporting events.
“He never thought his time was too precious for us,” Terek says referring to Parkerson providing transportation and resources for her and Chubinidze.
The exchange students toured the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca Cola, cheered for the Braves and Falcons, and ate at a variety of cultural restaurants. They were also able to travel to Washington D.C., to explore the nation’s capital and spent Thanksgiving in New York City.
“We were too busy to miss home,” Chubinidze, 19, answers when asked if she ever felt homesick.
Both Terek and Chubinidze hope that their semester at Clayton State University inspires more students to take advantage of the student exchange program. Chubinidze is the first student from her home university to participate in an exchange program. She is hoping her pictures and stories influence her classmates to explore a new Courtney and culture. Terek aspires to work internationally after graduating.