“Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime,” Mark Twain wrote in “Innocents Abroad.” Taking Twain’s view to heart, about 15 international students each year come to Rocky Mountain College, and 15 will enter in fall 2014. They are distinguished by their enterprise, acceptance, and success, said Amber West Martin, director of international programs.
RMC takes international students with pre-existing strong English language. “They come here programmatically,” said West Martin. RMC offers individualized programs that may not be part of larger schools’ student experience. Students with less English tend to funnel into IELP (English language learner) courses at Montana State University Billings, where they learn a language intensively while studying college material.
“The education you get depends on the investment you put into it,” said Evan Connolly (’15) of Tramore, Ireland, who is in his fourth year at RMC. He says the overriding lesson he would share is “you need to try this [international study]. The experience has made me a better person – my mom’ll tell you that,” he said.
Some international students find Americans provincial, but “they may not realize how big America is,” West Martin notes.
And RMC is small enough that students cannot keep company only with other international students. Before the end of their first year, students have established what West Martin calls their “secondary family” of peers, faculty, social groups, and church. International exchange is a potent diversifier for the RMC campus.
“We make it easier for international students; we have an individual outlook,” she said, that enfolds new students as individuals into a warm community. West Martin talks with all students before they have left their home, in part because she processes their immigration paperwork. The College has appraised that they will be successful before they travel, she said.
“An athlete at RMC is usually a very successful and determined student,” said West Martin. Many nations offer no options to become a collegiate athlete. Since many students need scholarships to help attend college, RMC’s international athletes tend to be achievement-oriented both academically and athletically. Soccer player Ronaldo Teixeira (’17) hails from Divinopolis, Brazil, at least six RMC ski team members grew up in Sweden, and basketball stalwart Jeremy Nicholas (’15) comes from Villepinte, France.
RMC will host several English-speaking freshmen from Africa in the fall.
“When you grew up in a small town, you don’t know anything else,” whether it’s in Montana or another nation, said Connolly. But Rocky Mountain College transforms learners whether they’re from rural communities or giant metropolises. “The reason behind my coming here was the financial aid I got. Now I expect and hope to be here the rest of my life.”