Returning International Students Share their Stories of Home and Hopes for their Future

By Shannon Gleba, Staff Writer

Manhattan College has truly become a global institution, welcoming students from 40 different countries around the world.

Three members of the class of 2020, Lora Yovcheva, Gent Smajlaj and Viola Marcia, have traveled from their home countries to become Jaspers. While these students may come from all different places, they have similar values which have led them to study in New York City.

Yovcheva is from the eastern European country of Bulgaria, on the Balkan Peninsula. While she understands that many people may have certain stereotypical thoughts surrounding the Balkan countries, she speaks very highly of her home country.

When asked to describe Bulgaria in a few short sentences, the sophomore presented a very positive description.

“It has a great history,” said Yovcheva, adding that the country was founded a mere 600 years after the birth Christ.

Intl1.pngWhile Bulgaria is an old country, the sophomore says that it seems to have stalled in development, stating that “it does not present as many opportunities as the US or some other countries.”

These limited opportunities for occupational success pushed Yovcheva to look elsewhere for pursuing her studies after high school. After planning to attend a university in Germany, she traveled to the United States on a vacation, where she fell in love with New York.

“My parents told me that if I really wanted to come to [New York] I can, because they knew how I was talking about the US all the time,” said Yovcheva, describing how her college decision was made.

Yovcheva has been attending MC since last year, and has certainly made her mark on campus. As a double major in economics and finance, the sophomore also finds time to get involved in some organizations in which she is interested. She is a member of the sorority Sigma Delta Tau, which takes up a majority of her time outside the classroom.

While the sophomore enjoys her time spent in New York City, she does long for many aspects of her life back in Bulgaria.

“Of course, I miss them,” said Yovcheva when asked about her family. However, with the help of technology, like Snapchat and video chat, she is able to speak with her siblings, parents and grandparents every day.

In the long run, Yovcheva believes that studying in the United States will better help her reach her goals compared to studying in Bulgaria.

“It’s a huge country. If you succeed here, you can practically succeed everywhere. You can see that from all the stars, like film stars and music stars,” she said.

Intl3.pngLikewise, Gent Smajlaj, feels like New York City presents many more opportunities for success than his home country of Kosovo, located in southeast Europe. Smajlaj was born in New York, and moved to Kosovo at the age of 8.

When it came time for Smajlaj to make a decision about where to continue his education, New York seemed to be the obvious choice.

“I wanted to continue from where I left off, I always wanted to live in New York, live in the city and explore new things. I felt like it was necessary since I left when I was 8 years old that I had to come back and continue doing what I do because even back when I was in Kosovo I’d still do things that I would do here in the US. I’d stay up at two in the morning just to watch Giants games and watch the Mets play and I always had that New York in me, so right when I finished high school I knew that I wanted to continue my education in New York,” said Smajlaj.

In addition, as a finance major, Smajlaj feels as if he will have more success in the United States because in Kosovo “the political situation is not well […] and it is pretty corrupt.”

The sophomore was able to quickly identify a few major differences between the United States and Kosovo when asked.

“New York is bigger than Kosovo in population and size, the diversity here you’ve got people from all around the world where in Kosovo it is mostly Albanians,” he said. In addition, Smajlaj added that the food is very different in Kosovo from what is available in New York City.

Smajlaj has taken advantage of many opportunities Manhattan College has offered to him. In addition to his studies, the finance student is involved with Foresight Collective, which he states is “a nonprofit organization with the main purpose to empower youth.”

Intl2.pngAnother student, Viola Marcia from Italy, also finds ways to keep following her passions, while also managing her workload as a biology major.

“At home I play the violin and here the same, every weekend,” she said.

While Marcia still participates in some of her activities from home, the fast pace of New York City has opened many new doors for her.

“Italy is more dull than America, less active. We take ages to do or correct something, for example rebuild a street or a building. Here in America the system is much more efficient and fast,” she said.

When asked why she chose to attend school in the U.S., Marcia cited a number of reasons.

“New York is a very good idea for my major because there are so many opportunities for pre-med students,” she said. “I just love the idea of the United States: freedom and making your dreams come true. This country’s mentality is amazing. If you work hard you will reach if not all, most of your goals, so everything is worth the effort.”