By Meg DePanise
Hood College, the place of study for students from 30 states and 23 different countries, values diversity and is committed to providing opportunities and an environment that celebrates multi-culturalism, according to the Study Abroad and Multicultural Affairs offices.
Hood College Office of Multicultural Affairs and International Student Programs along with the Study Abroad Programs Office are dedicated to preparing students to think critically and encouraging them to understand the world within a global context.
“When you actually go to another country to learn it’s a very different experience than just going for a holiday,” Kiran Chadda, director of Multicultural Affairs and International Student Programs, said.
Chadda said that this semester Hood College has 86 graduate international students, 30 undergraduate students, three exchange students, and four language assistants.
Marko Petric, a junior at Hood College, grew up in Bosnia- Herzegovina and was born in Croatia. He attended an international high school in Mostar, Bosnia- Herzegovina called the United World College.
Petric’s high school is one of thirteen such schools in the world dedicated to promoting peace and helping students from developing countries get a quality education and make positive changes in the world. Petric was able to attend Hood College because of the Shelby Davis scholarship program.
“I find diversity very important and I am glad that our school is putting more focus on cherishing that aspect of campus life,” Petric said.
Hood College also offers a number of opportunities for students to study abroad. There are exchange programs, direct enrollment, and faculty-led options for both the longer academic semesters and the shorter summer and winter terms.
Currently there are 13 Hood students abroad in eight different countries: Russia, France, Cyprus, Italy, Australia, England, Germany and Spain. Kate Emory, director of the Study Abroad Programs Office, said that each semester the number of students and their locations change and students typically study abroad during their junior year.
Emily Foley is studying in Florence, Italy, this semester. “Diversity at Hood is sort of like traveling abroad,” she said. “You can learn from different cultures, hear stories, get inspired by stories of their adventures and exposure to different people and cultures allows you a certain appreciation for the culture and life that you have.”
Study abroad allows students to experience a different country, culture, language, and education system while completing courses in their major. “While the advantages are many, a few are independence, self-confidence, introduction to a new way of living, language skills, thinking on a global level and networking with students from around the world,” Emory said.
Dawoon Tracy Hwang came to Hood from Seoul, South Korea, as part of a one-year exchange program with Seoul Women’s University. “The most exciting thing was that I could be in new circumstance,” she said. “Everything —the food, buildings, trees, people are really different from Korea so me and my friends from Korea were so excited whenever, wherever we went.”
Jasmine Smith, Hwang’s roommate, said that they get along well and she appreciates the amount of diversity at Hood.
“It’s nice to see and meet people from different places,” Smith said. “I think it’s important for people to do so because then they can learn about different cultures, but also ultimately realize that everyone has something in common.”
Emory stressed that the importance of embracing and learning about diversity is to prepare for the world outside of Hood College. “The world, through technology, is ever shrinking,” she said. “No longer is it rare to hear about China on the news or to meet someone from a different country or cultural background.”
Emory grew up in Frederick County which is not traditionally diverse. “When I studied abroad it changed my life —literally.”
She continued: “Upon returning to Frederick after living abroad, I saw the diversity. I could track the changes that this little county had gone through in the past 10 years.”
Chadda said that there has been an overall increase in the number of students traveling to United States to study in recent years.
“For some time after 9/11 there was a decrease in the volume of undergraduate international students but now it has grown again,” she said. “But it’s our graduate international program that has really grown.”
Just two years ago Hood College had two students from Saudi Arabia and currently there are 50 students enrolled in the graduate program who are studying on a full scholarship.
Chadda said that there are 10 international undergraduate students who will finish their studies this semester and more students will be welcomed to campus in the spring semester.
During an international student’s first year, they are assigned a host family. “It’s like a matching game,” Chadda said. “A relationship is often formed between them that is so good they keep in touch even after graduation.”
Ana Filipovic is a sophomore at Hood College also from the United World College in Mostar. Born in Croatia and raised in Bosnia-Herzegovina, she said that she has enjoyed spending time with her host parents.
“I had the chance to experience Halloween, Thanksgiving, American Christmas, Easter, with my great host parents,” Filipovic said. “I am 5,000 miles away from my hometown and from my family, but I feel like I’m home.”
Hood also offers ongoing diversity programs and workshops. “International students are not the only example of diversity,” Petric noted. “Here at Hood we have people of so many faiths, races, sexual orientations, music preferences.”
Chadda facilitates the “Harmony at Hood” workshop at the beginning of the academic year and organizes additional discussions and programs throughout the year. She said that in December there will be a special program on festivals around the world.
Petric continued: “Some of these differences are obvious while others are not, but I think they all enrich Hood’s campus culture in so many different ways. We can all learn something from each other, as long as we keep our minds open.”