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Kaysha: Surrounding myself with an international community

CSU IES StudentsKaysha Riggs joined the Northwest Community College Initiative  (NWCCI) team this summer as our new program coordinator. Her traveling adventures have taken her from her hometown in Arizona, across Europe and now to the Pacific Northwest where she is excited to help others on their journeys. Below, read Kaysha’s account of how her interest in all things international began and why she is excited to be working with the NWCCI program.

My junior year in high school I became friends with one of the exchange students in my class. I can remember looking at her German books and asking her to read them out-loud so that I could learn how to pronounce them. One day she mentioned that her program was badly in need of host families. She said that if students who were signed up for the year didn’t receive a host family, they wouldn’t be able to spend their year abroad in the United States. I asked my family if they would consider hosting an exchange student during my senior year in high school, and they agreed. Soon, student applications from all over the world flooded our inboxes.

The next year, Dany came to stay with us. She quickly became my German “sister”, and I still consider her to be so today. I was able to meet many of the students in the study abroad group through her study abroad organization. Each of them shared their cultures with me; their foods, their languages, and their beliefs. Because of the experience, I chose to study German and international studies in college. I volunteered as a conversation partner at the International Student Services offices and other cultural events. I began drinking Arabic teas, and tried Middle Eastern foods. I wanted to absorb as many cultures as I could during my time at college. It became second nature for me to be a mentor for students who were just learning English, or just venturing out into the United States for the first time.

Soon I was able to embark on my own study abroad program in Germany; eventually completing four different study abroad programs throughout my time at Colorado State University. After graduating in 2012, I traveled to Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago with my older brother, Kent. There, while walking 15-25 miles per day across Spain’s northern countryside, I was able to again surround myself with a small international community of travelers, of voyagers, of peregrinos (as we were fondly called by the locals and fellow hikers) from different countries; each of them at different life changing points in their lives. Nobody begins a 500 mile trek across a country without a good reason for them doing so. They shared their stories and journeys with me along the way.

Kayshas Camino de Santiago

When I returned to the U.S. I began working with a marketing company where I was able to learn how to use my artistic abilities to promote companies through social media. It was a phenomenal experience and I gained a great mentor in Aliza Sherman. I soon longed to use my new skills for the greater good, to help promote something I believe in. Working as the Northwest Community College Initiative Coordinator allows me to do just that, to promote cultural exchange and travel, through a wonderful program that helps bring diversity into the United States. The NWCCI promotes and enriches American culture, educates students and the local community alike, and allows students access to education they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. 

The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.

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