22 February, 2018
2018 is a milestone year for the International Programs at Gadsden State Community College. The College has offered international programming for 50 years and the Alabama Language celebrates its 45th anniversary. 2018 also marks the 40th annual International Festival, an event created to be a cultural exchange that exposes the community to other cultures.
The International Festival – themed “50 Years of Connecting Our World” – will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, March 9 at 210 at the Tracks. The event is free but the 6 p.m. dinner requires a ticket, which costs $15 for adults and $10 for students. Tables of eight can be reserved for $130. Caribbean food catered by Sugar Moon Café and Catering will be served.
“We encourage those in our community to attend the Festival to meet some of Gadsden State’s international students,’” said Becky Duckett, director of International Programs at Gadsden State. “Our students thoroughly enjoy interacting with the local community. It’s a wonderful learning opportunity for everyone.”
Over the past 50 years, more than 6,000 students from at least 142 counties have attended Gadsden State. Currently, the College has 106 internationally-born students from 35 countries.
“International students studying at Gadsden State and other American institutions bring immeasurable academic, cultural and economic value to our campuses and local communities,” Duckett said.
According to NAFSA’s International Student Economic Value Tool, over 9,500 international students contributed $262.9 million to Alabama’s economy during the 2016-17 academic year.
“The international students at Gadsden State contributed $1.5 million to the state’s economy,” she said.
Two of Gadsden State’s international students are Thelma and Edgardo del Cid, fraternal twins from the capital city of Honduras. They came from Tegucigalpa in the spring of 2016 after an EducationUSA advisor recommended Gadsden State. EducationUSA is a U.S. Department of State network of over 425 international student advising centers in more than 175 countries.
“We come from a small country with warm weather,” Thelma said. “We wanted a place where we could quickly adapt, so we chose Gadsden.”
The twins were excited – and nervous – when they moved into Gadsden State’s dormitory, Fowler Hall.
“I was too nervous to leave my room; to put myself out there,” she said.
Then, Thelma met Jasmine Adams, a Cherokee County native and resident of Fowler Hall.
“She walked right in and introduced herself,” she said. “She approached me when I was too scared to go out. She brought me out of my shell. She is a lovely person.
The two would become best friends. Adams even spent Christmas with the twins’ family in Honduras. She became one of many friends they would meet at Gadsden State.
“People are so social, so welcoming and so friendly,” Edgardo said. “They don’t see us as being different because we are from a different country. They don’t care that we speak a different language. People are so full of love and joy.”
“Gadsden State and the city has made us feel at home,” Thelma added.
The del Cids quickly became a part of student life at Gadsden State. Thelma is a member of Circle K, and they are both members of Phi Theta Kappa and Student Without Borders, an organization that assists with the International Festival.
“I love Student without Borders,” said Thelma, who serves as president. “It has given me an opportunity to meet and get to know people from different cultures; people with different mannerisms and gestures and languages. We never had these experiences before coming to Gadsden State.”
The positive experiences they’ve had at Gadsden State are attributed to not only their fellow students but also to the International Programs staff.
“The Alabama Language Institute is really amazing,” she said. “I’ve seen the progress of students who start off as beginners with the English language and finish as fluent speakers. It’s shocking how fast they grow.”
“The instructors know the abilities of the students, and they work on their level and at their pace to help them improve,” Edgardo added.
Both Thelma and Edgardo are studying for their general studies associate degrees. They are scheduled to graduate from Gadsden State on Aug. 9, also their 21st birthday.
“We are so excited about graduation and our birthday,” said Edgardo. “Our parents are going to come from Honduras to Gadsden to see us graduate.”
After graduation, Thelma plans to work towards a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering. She has applied to Alabama State University, Florida International University and Illinois Institute of Technology. Edgardo plans to walk in his father’s footsteps and work as a mechanical engineer. He hopes to transfer to either the University of Alabama or IIT for his bachelor’s degree. Both aspire to return to Honduras after they have achieved their educational goals.
“The very good education I’m getting in the United States will make me a prepared mechanical engineer that can do good things in my country,” he said.
Thelma also wants to help her country as a biomedical engineer.
“Our medical equipment in Honduras is not as good; not as advanced,” she said. “I want to help improve the healthcare for the citizens of Honduras.”
The twins enjoy talking to others about their home country, which is located in Central America and is known for its rich natural resources of minerals, coffee and sugar cane as well as its growing textiles industry.
“We have enjoyed the International Festival because we like teaching others about Honduras,” Thelma said.
They will have a country display that will include artisan bowls as well as facts about their economy, food, tourism and more.
“We want people to learn what they don’t know; we want to break stereotypes,” she said. “We want people to know our country is very beautiful with lovely islands and mountains. Educating people is what the International Festival is all about.”
To purchase tickets to the International Festival, go to wallacehall.org or call 256-543-ARTS before March 5.