March 21, 2007 Edition

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Williams continues international ties

Williams Baptist College students (from left) Ana Novicic of Serbia and Nomsi Shezi of South Africa visit with Williams International Students Club sponsor Becky Gore.
By Scott Arnold

Dr. H.E. Williams did more at Williams Baptist College than establish the school. He established a tradition of reaching out to foreign nations in an attempt to offer international students a Christian education.

"Dr. Williams had a love for international students and wanted to see them have the opportunity to receive a Christian education. Because of his established ties to Kenya, where he made countless trips throughout his tenure, the college continues to reap the benefits of having Kenyan students on our campus today," said Angela Flippo, vice president for enrollment management and the school official who deals primarily with incoming international students.

According to Flippo, WBC currently has 10 international students enrolled in classes, seven of whom are involved in athletics. One might ask, how do these students find Williams Baptist College?

According to Ana Novicic, a sophomore from Kraljevo, Serbia, and member of WBC's women's basketball team, "My former coach and friend was checking on the Internet for schools with basketball programs. I chose Williams over several junior college programs because Williams is a four-year school and it has a pre-pharmacy (biology) degree."

Flippo explains that Novicic's story is common for international students at Williams, noting, "Most international students find out about us through our website."

"I love it here because it is such a small area and there is not as much to get distracted doing. I can concentrate on my studies and basketball and not have to worry about other distractions I had back home," Novicic said.

WBC has organized a club, simply called the International Students Club, to help acclimate and make sure all of the international students' needs are met. Becky Gore is one of the sponsors for that club.

"Our goal is to give international students a place where they feel like they belong," Gore said. "The club doesn't have to be really active because our students do such a great job integrating themselves."

Northeast Arkansas is vastly different from Serbia, Kenya, Guinea-Bissau, Brazil, China, South Africa and Mexico, which are the countries currently represented at WBC. With students coming from so many different areas, many different needs are addressed by caring people like Gore.

"Some come from regions where the climate is always hot and aren't prepared for the cold weather at winter time," Gore said.

Another adjustment for many of the students is the lack of public transportation.

That has been an issue for Novicic, who noted, "I found that it is hard to live here without a car. I came from a city of two million people in Serbia, so there was public transportation for anywhere you wanted to go."

Food is yet another adjustment facing these students who come from afar. Gore quipped, "I've only heard positive things from our international students about the food here."

As Novicic explained, "At home we eat 90 percent natural food and 10 percent junk food, and that is very different here. People back home don't eat fast food nearly as often as people here do, either."

Perhaps the biggest hurdle for international students is the absence of family. Typically, international students may make a trip back home once a year, or less. Phone calls to and from relatives can get expensive, so those calls are limited to only a handful each month.

"Certainly my family misses me and I miss them too," Novicic said. "But, they know that my wish was to play basketball in the United States. Plus I am working on my studies. All that makes me happy, and as long as I am happy, they are happy as well."

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