Photo courtesy Sioux City Journal
Esther Mboa left Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo with a population of more than 10 million people, to study business at Briar Cliff because a friend told her it was a good school.
Nearly 975,000 international students studied at American colleges and universities in 2014-2015, according to the most recent data from the Institute of International Education. One out of three studied in California, New York or Texas with a majority of the students coming from China, India, South Korea or Saudi Arabia.
Here in Sioux City, Briar Cliff University had 50 students from 18 countries for the 2015-2016 school year.
With a little university, you can go see the professor. You can talk. They give you that attention that you need, and they really care about what you’re saying.
— Esther Mboa, international student
One of those students was Max Pizarro.
While he is Catholic, he didn’t attend Briar Cliff solely for its Franciscan values. He received academic and athletic scholarships that covered about 60 percent of his tuition.
“It was a good offer,” he said. “And I really, really, really wanted to play soccer.”
Having the soccer team gave him instant friends who understood the struggle of assimilating to American culture because many of them were going through it too, coming from other countries like Ecuador, Spain, Scotland, England, Ireland, Peru and Canada.
Meanwhile, Esther Mboa closed out her first year at Briar Cliff, feeling the pressure Pizarro once felt. She’s still struggling with eating American cuisine and the language barrier.
She speaks French, Swahili and Lingala. She knew a little bit of English and tried to learn more by listening to American music, particularly Beyonce and Rihanna. Two years ago, she left her home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to study English for seven months in Orlando, Fla., at The Language Company.
Mboa was looking at attending a state school but determined they were too big and too expensive.
“With a little university, you can go see the professor. You can talk. They give you that attention that you need, and they really care about what you’re saying,” she said. “When you go to them and you tell them, ‘You know what, I’m from Africa. I don’t really speak English.’ They’re like, ‘OK, you’re not the first person (to have this problem).’ And they’re really there for you.”
Admittedly, though, Mboa didn’t want to live in Iowa. “I hate cold,” she said. And she had never seen snow. But one of her friends was enrolled at Briar Cliff and liked it. Her friend’s vote of confidence – and an academic scholarship – was enough to convince her to give it a try.