LMC in the News – September 4
September 5, 2011
Jacksonville Daily Progress
by Lauren LaFleur
JACKSONVILLE — Hundreds of students come to Jacksonville each semester to attend the three institutions of higher education in town, and each school welcomes several international students to their classes and the community.
Lon Morris College, Jacksonville College and the Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary currently count students from 32 different countries in their student populations — a portion of the student body that provides a richness to the schools, according to Dr. David Heflin, international student sponsor at Jacksonville College.
“The international students have so much to give,” he said. “They are exceptional students. They take advantage of our technology, they’re not just goofing off. They set a very good example for our students.
“They also adapt to our southern dialect of English very easily. They adapt to our system really quickly. They learn about freedom — something they do not have completely in their home country — and they remind us how blessed we are. We’re more thankful to God for our blessings because of them.”
Heflin said international students at Jacksonville College hail from Haiti, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mexico, Zambia, Rwanda, Kenya, Russia, Puerto Rico, Sweden, Cambodia, Brazil, Vietnam and Iran.
“I believe that diversity is one of the major benefits to living on a residential campus,” said David Gehrels, coordinator of student activities at Lon Morris College. “Coming from a small town in East Texas, my experiences with different cultures was limited. Meeting students from other parts of the country and other parts of the world helped to open my understanding of the different things people experience.”
He said countries represented at Lon Morris College for the fall semester include Zaire, Guatemala, Mexico, Croatia, Japan, Venezuela, Nigeria, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Ivory Coast, Canada, Congo, Trinidad and Tobago, Germany and the Bahamas.
He said the students offer many valuable assets to the school.
“The diversity of leadership styles and approaches to education and social interaction provide unique opportunities for American students to experience various ways to impact their campus organizations, sports teams and academics,” he said.
At the Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary, countries currently represented include Czech Republic, Ghana West Africa, Liberia West Africa, Nigeria, China, Haiti, Thailand and Puerto Rico.
“Our international students are encouraged to join the International Student Club (ISC) once they settle onto campus,” Gehrels said. “The ISC provides our international students a chance to become a part of the LMC family in a smaller ‘family style’ setting they can be a part of while attending college far away from home. It encourages international students to fully participate in all campus activities and provides acceptance and support for their endeavors while they adjust to their new surroundings.
“We also provide bi-weekly shuttle services around Jacksonville, and a monthly shuttle to Tyler for shopping, banking and business, as well as opportunities to socialize and have fun.”
Heflin said international students at JC mingle with other international students in town, especially at the international students’ Christmas party, held at the home of LMC’s Art Gust and his wife Barbara.
“We get all these international students together from the three different institutions of higher learning, and they will learn that there is someone who speaks the same language,” Heflin said. “You will see them writing down their email addresses, contact information, and they will have a friend who they keep in touch with.”
He said the party usually includes introducing the students to the Christian aspects of the holiday and the students’ teaching each other about the holiday in their respective countries.
“They share the customs of how they celebrate a Christian Christmas in their country,” Heflin said. One of the most surprising parts of the celebration is when students take turns singing “Silent Night” in their native languages — eight last year.
LMC Director of Admissions Jessica Chiles said international students at LMC generally come to the school from two areas: the church and athletics.
“We have a long history of international students who receive a bishop’s scholarship through the United Methodist Church to attend our school,” she said. “Some of our best athletes are from other countries and go on to do great things with their careers.”
Heflin said Jacksonville’s small campuses provide a unique experience for the international students that helps them further their education.
“Since we teach developmental reading and writing here, if they can’t control English well, they have the opportunity to get extra help with it,” he said. “It’s nice for them to be at a small school where you can get to know your teacher and know they love you and care for you. They get very close to their teachers.”
Heflin said the international students have the power to heavily influence their American counterparts’ lives as well — an experience Heflin personally had.
When he attended JC, Heflin’s roommate was from Taiwan. He taught Heflin about his country’s customs and some Mandarin. Heflin continued his education in languages because of his experience learning from his Taiwanese roommate.
“I was really blessed by having an international roommate,” he said. “There is a long tradition of hosting international students here.”