On January 13, the dreams of 111 young men and women came true as they became the newest generation of leaders to begin classes at EARTH University. They come from 28 countries around the globe but are united in their dedication to change the world through agriculture and sustainable development. They follow in the footsteps of the thousands who have come before them, and are prepared to work, learn, grow and lead in the next four years at EARTH.
The Inauguration Ceremony that begins the first day of class is full of pomp, circumstance and vibrant national flags that the new students proudly carry into the auditorium. This year, we were honored to watch our international family grow with the first-ever students from Somaliland, Lesotho and Sweden. Representing her class, The MasterCard Foundation Scholar Perseveranca Delfina Khossa (’17, Mozambique) was elected to give a welcome address to the entire student body, faculty and staff present at the ceremony.
“Ladies and gentleman from the Class of 2017, every one of us knows that we represent 28 countries in a community of more than 33 nations, which signifies that EARTH is truly intercultural and that we have a huge opportunity to become part of this community. The differences in culture are obvious, and it is essential that we all share the same personal values so that we can live in harmony with our differences and learn from them. These values are respect, dignity, honesty, compassion, integrity, honor, loyalty, togetherness, peace, love and humility.”
It is also worth noting that this year marks a historic best for EARTH University in terms of gender equality, with 46 percent of our new students being female. In developing countries where girls are often given less opportunities to study and are discouraged from seeking higher education, the chance to study at a university is a life-changing experience.
Perseveranca remembers the day she found out she was accepted at EARTH, “To this day I can’t describe how I felt in that moment. I know that it is a big opportunity but also an enormous responsibility for me.”
In the last two decades, EARTH has evolved from a principally regional agronomy school to what it is today: an international Institution, representing villages as well as urban centers throughout Africa, the Caribbean, the Americas and Europe. To accommodate the increase of students who speak a native language other than Spanish, EARTH now provides a 12-week intensive language course complete with homestays with local host families, field trips and rigorous coursework to help prepare students for their first semester. There is also an Orientation Week for all first-year students, designed to encourage intercultural understanding and cohabitation skills through games and team-building exercises.
The success of these efforts can be seen during a quick walk anywhere on campus or in an early morning Work Experience class in the field, where the students learn from one another and work together.
Gerson Bringuez (’17, Guatemala) has found it easy to adjust to life at EARTH, despite a few minor cultural differences. “So far it seems comfortable and beautiful. Everything is so green! I guess I just feel like I’m at home.” He has also discovered that, “Here at EARTH they also really respect punctuality, a lot more than in my country anyways!” Gerson also enjoyed participating in the cultural show during the first week of school, where student perform traditional dances and songs from their homelands. “Watching everybody else’s presentations was when I started to notice all of the differences in how people dance and talk, even if they come from neighboring countries.”
First year student David Santiago (’17, Colombia) relates that, “One thing I have already learned here is that nobody is the same. Before I came to EARTH I had never really met people from outside Colombia, and when I got here and heard all of the different language being spoken I told myself I was going to learn at least five new languages this year!”
In the end, what allows our students to overcome their differences is the one thing they share in common: the desire to learn and one day become leaders of change for their communities and the world. As David puts it, “Finally being here at the University is great. I love agronomy and everything that has to do with the earth, so I feel like I’m living my dream.”
You must be logged in to post a comment.