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Westminster students bring school, Fulton a global flavor


Steven SakayrounPublished in The Futon Sun 8/30/2012

When 325 new students moved into Westminster College last week, some of them brought the school and the surrounding community a splash of international flair.

Students from as far as Senegal and the Central African Republic, such as Steven Sakayroun, hope to take their education back to their homes to improve them, while more local students like transnational studies major Amelia Ayers of Ballwin still hope to go forth from the school and change the world.

Sakayroun, 20, was part of the inaugural class at the African Leadership Academy, a school in South Africa for young leaders throughout the continent. After working on various projects, studying computers and writing a French-language novel, his academic advisor recommended other schools around the world, mentioning Westminster.

"I looked at Westminster and I saw that there was a really small community here and that the quality of education, from what I had been reading, was really great," he said.

Though her journey to come to school was a few thousand miles shorter, Ayers, 18, said she chose the school also because of the community focus, both locally and worldwide.

"I chose Westminster because of the community atmosphere and their transnational studies program," she said, explaining the major was only offered at one other school in the U.S. "Westminster is actually a very global campus. My roommate is actually from Nepal, so I've met a lot of other international students. I picked (my major) because I think that global understanding is a very relevant and important topic in today's times, and it's something I care about."

Ayers is never far from family at Westminster. Her older sister, Caroline, is currently a junior at the school, and her father, two uncles and other older sister are all graduates.

Sakayroun does not have the luxury of family visits, but he said he has spent enough time away from family that he is almost used to it. He left his grandparents in his native Central African Republic at 7 to live with his mother, brother and sister in Senegal, all of which he also left at 16 to attend school in South Africa. He keeps in touch with his family via email and phone calls, but other international students at the school both keep him company and help him adjust to U.S. culture.

"There are many international students, so I've not really had such a hard time trying to integrate the culture," said Sakayroun. "I've been around these people who are strangers, too. You don't really have to go through this hard time trying to falsely integrate directly to U.S. culture. I think I'm kind of understanding U.S. culture little by little as I go."

There is some culture shock for Ayers as well, though hers is more an instance of adapting to a smaller town.

"I like Fulton; it's smaller, but it's got all the areas you could need," she said, further adding that she has enjoyed restaurants like Beks and Arris' Pizza. "It's been interesting. It's definitely a change from high school."
Following graduation, Ayers said her dream job would be to work in the state department or as a diplomat. Sakayroun has similar ambitions. Passionate about his education, he hopes to take what he has learned here and take it back to Africa, and see prestigious schools built in the continent in the future.

"Once you learn from other places, you can begin to have ideas you can ... take back to other places," said Sakayroun. "For me, I have been traveling now and I have seen so many different things and thought, 'why can't do it back home?' I think that (a global view is important for every person who would like to make a change where they are."
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