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Meet Our Students
From International Backgrounds

Pichthyda Ninth, Cambodia

Major: Management

“I’m not a traditional Cambodian nor am I like an American. I’m a strange combination of both,” said Pichthyda Ninth, 19, an international student majoring in management.

Ninth speaks both her native Khmer and English fluently. The latter she learned at an international high school in Cambodia where all of her teachers were either American or Canadian. Her classmates also came from all over the world – Europe, China, Australia the Middle East. It was like growing up in the United Nations, she said.

On the other hand, her home life has been “very traditional.” One of three children in an affluent family of business owners, Ninth said, “In my culture, I will always be a child to my parents. Cambodian parents are particularly protective of their daughters. It took a lot of consideration for them to let me come to America. But the U.S. is a very powerful country with excellent schools. Though Canada and some European countries have excellent schools, the cost of college in America is reasonable.”

Along with Ninth, who is majoring in management, her 18-year-old brother Narong is also attending Rhode Island College as a computer science major. They both live with a cousin in Providence. 

In her free time, Ninth engages in art, and her eyes light up at the mere mention of drawing and painting. Yet despite her love of art, it could never be a career option for her, she said. “In Cambodia art is undervalued. The major industries are business, accounting, finance and banking. I will be returning to my country as soon as I graduate, and I need to have a career like management that I can use,” she said. To satisfy her love for aesthetics, Ninth is considering a minor in studio art.

Looking back on her two years in America, Ninth said that whereas adapting to an American school has not been difficult, adjusting to life in America has come with a few culture shocks. One shock was the sight of homeless people. “I know that my country is very undeveloped and that it’s very normal to see beggars on the streets, but when I came here, I asked my cousin, ‘Why are there beggars here?’ America is such a powerful country. I was very shocked,” she said.

Yet America has also brought wonders to this young woman’s life and many firsts, such as her first ice-skating experience at Kennedy Plaza, her first New England snow and, most of all, her first taste of personal freedom, she said. “In Cambodia it’s important to conform, but in America you are free to be yourself. You can express your own uniqueness and share your own opinion without being afraid of being criticized for your beliefs.”

Her advice to future international students: “Be willing to learn, be willing to be inspired by the things around you and have fun exploring America.”

SONNIE KPANGBAI, Liberia

B.A. English/Elementary Education, 2010; M.Ed Educational Leadership, 2012

I escaped the Liberian civil war and came to the United States in 2001 to work with the YMCA International Summer Camp Counselor Program in New York. Having survived extraordinary danger, chaos and heartbreaking setbacks in the Liberian civil war, I have a strong sense of purpose and passion for teaching and educational leadership. I graduated with a B.A in English/ Elementary Education (Cum Laude), and a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership (LEAD) from Rhode Island College.

The graduate faculty in the LEAD program are devoted to bringing out the best in each student. They knew the students not only by names, but by what the students believed about leadership. They provided opportunities for the students to make critical decisions, analyze strategic plans, and develop solutions that served in the best interest of everyone in the cohort. The faculty’s support of the students helped to form a lifetime bond and mutual respect between them and the students. Faculty worked hardest to develop talented, creative and outstanding leaders. I have learned that leadership is not about the skills and knowledge we acquired. It is about how we utilize those skills and knowledge to change people’s mindset.

I hope to continue my work in higher education and to construct a boarding school for disadvantaged youths in Liberia. I want to utilize the skills and knowledge I acquired from the LEAD Program to help young people discover their potential and to be positive contributors to their communities.

XIAFONG LOU, China

M.A, Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), 2012

As an international student from China, I cannot imagine studying at a better place for inspiring and shaping me. Rhode Island College has been dedicated to creating a relaxing and welcoming environment for international students. I feel so grateful that during my very first, as well as my toughest, period of studying abroad, the caring international advisors and professionals were always there to help me.

Rhode Island College offers every international student a learning environment where international students can gain both peer supports from native speakers and professional assistance from the entire school community. This not only helped me to gain fluency in the English language in a comparatively short period but also allowed me to fit into the native environment more smoothly and comfortably.

My professors were all full time, extremely responsible, and committed and my academic advisor was accessible even on the weekends. What impressed me more is that all the faculty and staff members I have worked with showed a great deal of understanding and appreciation towards diverse cultures. At RIC, I could indulge myself in various wonderful cultures and enjoy interacting with people from all over the world.

The diverse job opportunities I obtained in various departments also made me a more confident and competitive candidate for my future profession. I would like to say that among all the decisions I have made for my professional study and development, studying at RIC has probably been the best one. Rhode Island College has been devoted to helping international students to achieve success both in and out of school.

LORENZO CRUMBIE, Jamaica

B.A. Biology, 2011

I learned about Rhode Island College from my guidance counselor who had visited the campus on a U.S. college tour. She met a faculty member from the biology department and was convinced RIC would be a good fit for me because of my interest in medical science. As a child growing up in Jamaica, I had chronic asthma and was in and out of hospitals most of my life. I was always intrigued when our family physician knew what to do to make me feel better. As a teenager, I began shadowing physicians in the ER and OR of Jamaican hospitals. I wanted more than ever to help. I became caught up in the ways in which medical science has devised ways to fix these problems.

RIC’s biology program is competitive and I had superb interactions with the admissions office. There was also a collegial atmosphere among the faculty and approachability by both faculty and staff. It was a win-win situation from the start. With the level of diversity at RIC, fitting in as an international student was a piece of cake! There are tons of clubs and organizations that make RIC a home away from home. I worked in the undergraduate admissions office, served as a tour guide, mentored elementary school students at the laboratory K-6 school on campus, and became an RA (resident assistant) in the residence halls.

My professors took a genuine interest in me. Dr. Kinsey [in Biology] taught me how to actively seek out knowledge and Professor Conklin taught me how to read deductively and to question data. In my junior and senior years, I took on a research project in organic chemistry with Dr. Williams and spent hours in the pharmacology and toxicology lab.

I met pathologist and RIC graduate Dr. Kyle Kurek, the director of the Pediatric Pathology Fellowship Program and pathology instructor at Harvard Medical School, when he gave a talk at the college. He let me shadow him in his lab and the hospital during my spring break. I always thought of doctors as practitioners, not researchers. Dr. Kurek broadened my understanding of their dual role. Physicians don’t just treat the symptoms of diseases, they conduct research to understand diseases in order to prevent them.

After I graduated, I was approved to extend my stay in the U.S. through Optional Practical Training (OPT). I was hired as a research assistant and am currently working at Genzyme, a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, MA. I volunteer evenings at the lab at Children’s Hospital Boston where I continue to work with Dr. Kurek investigating pathologies. While I am still undecided whether to pursue an MD-PhD or just an MD, I know that the education I received from Rhode Island College will help me become successful no matter which path I choose. The three years I spent at RIC were the most rewarding of my life.

ALIEU NJIE, Gambia, West Africa

Computer Information Systems, transferred to RIC , spring 2012

My experience at RIC has been truly one of a kind. I am honored to be part of an organization which cherishes education and diversity. My first semester was a blast. Classes were not packed like many other colleges, which I think creates a better learning environment for the student.

The teachers are fantastic and very much into the student’s success. You can see how involved the teachers are in your work which not only motivates but pushes you to do your best. Many people go above and beyond to help out with anything a student needs, from the people in the registrar’s office to the president herself, who, by the way, is the most inspiring person you'd ever meet.

As an athlete it was an easy transition to join the soccer team. The coach welcomed me with open arms and I am very much looking forward to a good soccer season. Personally, RIC is the perfect school for me and the prefect environment to achieve all my dreams. I hope any aspiring student with hopes of success comes and experiences the level of commitment this school offers. I haven't been disappointed and am happy at RIC.

Page last updated: February 18, 2014