College is a time to try new things, expand your horizons, learn more about the world around you and your place in it.
At Fort Lewis College, where a large part of the diversity students are exposed to is the wide cross-section of Native American students, there’s another group of students who add to the richness of the educational experience.
This school year, 59 students will walk the FLC campus who have come from around the world to study, sometimes for a semester, sometimes a year, sometimes for their entire college degree.
They come from Asia – China and Japan – Down Under from Australia, from the Caribbean – Curaçao – and South America – Brazil. There are also students from our neighbor to the north, Canada, and of course, a bumper crop from Europe – Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. There’s even one from Georgia in Eastern Europe.
This week was International Education Week, so it’s a good time to write about what’s happening at FLC.
Hazuki Toyama, from Okinawa and one of 20 students from Japan at FLC this year, won first place in the Show Your Colors in Colorado photography contest. It was sponsored by the Colorado Department of Higher Education and its StudyColorado program.
Her shot, which also featured fellow exchange students Natsuko Hanatani and Nana Kawata, shows them displaying ketchup sandwiches reminiscent of the Japanese flag with the red disc in the center symbolizing the sun. In the background is the beautiful view of Durango from the rim of the mesa.
Toyama is studying teacher education at the Fort, with an eye to teaching English in Japan. She is thoroughly enjoying her time here. She mentioned that the warmth of locals and the fact that even strangers say hello and smile at her, makes her think twice about going back to Japan. Toyama is also enjoying the mountains and changing seasons, although I think she misses the ocean some.
As part of the weeklong recognition of the international students, Judith Reynolds reworked her “Dear Father, Don’t Worry” readers theater piece about the misadventures of Swedish archaeologist Gustaf Nordenskiöld. He visited Mesa Verde in 1891, doing the first scientific study of the ruins and creating an international incident by taking artifacts home. He, too, was far from home in Southwest Colorado.
It’s a gripping story, and it’s true. Reynolds constructed it using actual documents, including letters between Nordenskiöld and his father, telegrams, documents and newspaper stories.
Most people know Reynolds as the arts critic for The Durango Herald, but for several years, she has served as the local host for an international student. (They don’t live with her, but she provides some home-cooked meals and exposure to Durango and the area.) This year, when picking up her student, Swede Daniel Barkenäs, at the airport, she knew instantly she had her Nordenskiöld. (He’s a business student. She didn’t tell him immediately, because she didn’t want to scare him off, but it didn’t take her long to convince him.)
FLC Theatre Department Chairman Dennis Elkins was a collaborator in the venture, playing several characters and taking Barkenäs under his wing with some coaching. He also recruited drama student Matthew Socci to play a variety of parts, including Al Wetherill.
In a nice touch, Reynolds recruited FLC music students Adam Sowards, Billy Cole and Nicolas Garcia to perform Western music such as “The Streets of Laredo” and “They Call the Wind Mariah” in an overture and finale.
It was a delight from beginning to end, particularly Barkenäs’ reading of the first lines of letters in Swedish before changing to English.
The international exchange goes both ways. There are currently FLC students studying in 23 countries. In addition to some of the usual destinations, there are also young people in the Czech Republic, Fiji, India, Israel, Korea, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates. In the spring semester, students will be going to two new countries for FLC – Ghana and Malta.
My thanks to Jennifer Gay, the director of international programs at FLC, for filling me in on the details.
I was extremely fortunate to be involved with exchange programs from an early age. My parents, Charlie and Kathy Butler, started the first exchange program in Durango through the Rotary Club of Durango, and we hosted two students in our home. I was a high school exchange student to Mexico, did my junior year of college abroad in Spain and also studied in France and Switzerland.
There are no words, even in Butler hyperbole, to express the value of the growth, the world view shifts, the friendships and connections.
Happy Sagittarius birthday greetings go to Frank Fristensky, Mike Bruce, Jo Fusco, Katherine Burgess, Annabelle Eagle, Dinah Jones, Dixie Palmer, Alan Kahler, Ione Simons, Shiann Homer, Darryl Hunt, Robert Maple, Ashton Jory, Carol West, Sherilyn Whitney, Ian Junkermann and Catherine Ford Brister.
Not only were FLC music students and the value of international experience the theme of the first item, they’re the theme of the second one, too, but this one is also about making your holidays memorable.
For the first time ever, the Fort Lewis College Choir is taking all that talent overseas on a trip to perform (and learn) in Europe in summer 2015. For many of the students, it will be their first trip out of the country.
They are workin’ it to raise money for the trip, which costs $3,489 per student. Bake sales, performances, whatever they can think of, they’re doing.
And for the holidays, you can make your gathering, company or personal, merry and bright by booking a group to come a caroling. (I can’t stop the caroling lingo once I get going.) They will come in groups of four to eight, with the cost $100 for 30 minutes and $200 for an hour.
Call Shauna Blaylock at 247-7087 to book a performance that will have guests marveling until next Christmas.
Just a quick reminder – the chili dinner and auction benefiting little Kodi Grace McAlvain will take place from 5:30 to 9 p.m. today at Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary School, 11274 Colorado Highway 140 south of Hesperus.
Six-year-old Kodi is the daughter of Casey Story and Mikki Cruzen and the granddaughter of Calvin and Pat Story. Kodi was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia just three weeks after starting kindergarten, and she’s in for a long haul of chemotherapy and blood transfusions, with all the associated expenses.
The Storys, owners of Treasure Auction, are among the most generous folks in town with their time and talents, handling the auctioneering at countless nonprofit events.
This is our chance to say thank you.
It’s a perfect time to cuddle before a warm fire for the anniversaries of Douglas and Kimberly Pierce, Ed and Lauren Cotgageorge, Wayne and Vicki Hose and Bob and Heather Lundquist.
Here’s how to reach me: firstname.lastname@example.org; phone 375-4584; mail items to the Herald; or drop them off at the front desk.