By Kelsey Klerowski '09 and Dani Zorn '09
The country of Moldova is landlocked by Ukraine and Romania. Lithuania is two countries north of Moldova, and the U.S.A. is to the west across the Atlantic Ocean. How are these countries connected? Sergiu Rusu.
Rusu, '10, attends Lithuania Christian College (LCC), a small school located in Klaipeda, Lithuania, with 50 percent of their student body coming from other countries. But this semester he is studying at Gordon.
"It's called the 'American Experience,'" says Rusu, and it is part of a program Gordon's Global Education Office offers. This partnership between the two colleges is based on the same principles as studying abroad but is unique from other programs Gordon offers. With a program like Orvieto, a group of Gordon students live and learn together while seeing the countryside and having members of Gordon faculty available. With the LCC exchange a Gordon student travels to Lithuania for a semester and is submerged in classes and dorm life like a regular student.
"[LCC] is a great program to study abroad. You see a lot since the countries are so close together in Europe," Rusu says. "During spring break the students see more in one week than an average traveler would in one month. You experience so much culture."
The following semester a student from LCC (like Rusu) will be submerged and actively take part in the Gordon experience. Currently Rusu is enrolled in international relations, international economics, advanced corporate finance, [justice, a philosophy course, and is auditing a French class. But being an exchange student is not simply being accepted into the program.
Arlyne Van Dam Sargent is the advisor to all international students. Her main responsibility? "It's sort of a catch-all job," she says. Sargent works closely with the Global Ed Office to make sure transitions are as smooth as possible. "I work on the legal side of their stay," she says. Sargent coordinates students coming to the U.S. by handling their paperwork such as visas, Social Security cards, helping them set up bank accounts and acting as the point person if they need anything.
But there is more to transitioning than paperwork and academics: the tricky subject of culture gap. According to Rusu there are subtle differences between the cultures from eating habits to friendships. "People have surface friendships here," he says. "It's easy to start friendships in America but hard to keep them. It's hard to start friendships in Europe, but once you do, they are friends for life."
After graduation Rusu plans to get his master's in business administration. In the meantime, "I want to find out what's missing in my life and challenge what I took for granted," he says.
As Rusu gets ready to fly back across the sea to Eastern Europe, he appreciates what his "American experience" has taught him. "This experience will prepare me for my future and the decisions I will be making." The experiences Rusu described included learning, traveling, and better understanding the US culture and the distinct features of his own. "A good realization that life's stringent issues go across borders," Rusu says. "We are all swimming in the same aquarium, all faced by the questions of impoverishment in faith, justice and economics.