Over a month ago I received an email from a local community college, College of the Albemarle (COA), asking me about the process for printing a magazine. COA, it seems, has a very active English Department, and the students and teachers had printed a magazine of their work last year and were hoping to do so again.
After a series of emails with a student, we agreed to meet at Outer Bank’s Juice and Java in Kitty Hawk. In our emails, it was apparent the student’s name was not typical of American or English culture, but the well written emails were from someone in command of the English language so I didn’t think much of it. In meeting her, it was clear that she hailed from an Eastern European nation, and I asked where she was from. Moscow, as it turns out . . . actually a suburb of Moscow.
It struck me how remarkable it was to be having coffee with a student from Russia in a business owned by Gary and Necla Rader, since Necla, who became a U.S. citizen about four years ago, is from Turkey and the young lady helping in the coffee shop that day was from the Ukraine.
It should not be surprising, because like the rest of the country, the Outer Banks is quintessentially American in its fascinating mix of thoughts, ideals and people. During the busy summer months, exchange students from around the world come here to work for three to four months.
I find it remarkable talking to these kids and getting their observations on life in America. Typically they describe Americans as friendly, outgoing and inquisitive. Of course, they are seeing families at their relaxed best since they’re on vacation, but the consistency of the observation seems at odds with how we often see ourselves – and there may be a lesson in that.
The range of countries that these kids come from is quite varied. The majority are Eastern European, although there are always a few kids from Turkey tossed into the mix and occasionally a student from France or England will arrive. This past summer I had a chance to talk to a young lady from Mongolia–who may have been one of the most intelligent and adaptive people I’ve ever met.
It’s interesting, though, how many of these kids go back to their native countries and then come back to the Outer Banks as a student. We don’t typically think of a community college as an educational draw, but for a few dozen kids every year, that seems to be the case.
The resounding reason for their return is the range of opportunity available to them. I remember talking to a young woman from Moldova who told me in her country she was studying to be an electric engineer because that was where her best opportunity was to secure a good paying job. She didn’t particularly care for the subject, so it was a relief for her to study in America, where she saw so many more opportunities ahead of her.