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Kezia Gavrila describes challenges of international study

Who’s Who Among Students is a national award that recognizes students who excel in scholastic achievement. At Oklahoma Christian University, 125 students reached the Who’s Who list. In an upper level journalism class, students interviewed 13 names off of the list. 

By Hiraka Ohara

According to international student Kezia Gavrila, she faced several challenges and obstacles during her time studying abroad in an unfamiliar country.

Gavrila was born and raised in Surabaya, Indonesia. She said, as the oldest of four children, it has always been expected of her to set the standard of behavior for her siblings, which forced her to take education seriously.

She decided to study abroad at Oklahoma Christian in the fall of 2013. Gavrila said she took some time figuring out which major would be right for her, but ultimately went with graphic design and stuck by it. As a fan of art, marketing, business and psychology, Gavrila saw aspects of all of these fields rolled into her major, and she said she truly enjoys what she has learned.

In addition to her studies, Gavrila said she found herself busy working various jobs on campus and online. She participated in extracurricular activities, including the international student organization Chroma, where she did graphic design work and helped students from different countries connect with one another and various events and clubs on campus.

Despite her successes while at Oklahoma Christian, Gavrila said she still faces challenges resulting from being an international student.

According to Gavrila, her collegiate quest came with its own special set of challenges as a student studying in her second language. Gavrila said she did not use English on a daily basis until arriving in America despite learning the language growing up.

She said encountering new concepts and ideas within a new culture and language has been stressful at times. Despite these obstacles, Gavrila found confidence and success in America.

Gavrila said she hopes to return to Indonesia someday, but her immediate plans following graduation are to stay in the United States and find a job. Her hope is to use the knowledge and skills she obtains from learning and working to fulfill her dream of running her own café.

Q: Is there anything that you want to say to current international students to help them find success?

A: Make a lot of friends. I now have friends all over the world. Be immersed in American culture. You’re here anyways. Don’t try to avoid it. Don’t try to hate it. I did that for the longest time, and it was bad. Now I’m really immersed in the culture, and I think I’m very American, and it’s okay because I live here now. Especially those international students that have a lot from the same country. For example, it is really hard not to be friends with people that are similar to you, like other Japanese students. Try to disperse and meet other people that way you can improve your English. Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask. Pretend you’re stupid. It stands to your advantage. Pretend you are the stupidest international student that doesn’t know how anything works in America. They will help you.

Q: I understand you work online as well? Tell me about your business.

A: It’s an online scrapbooking shop on Instagram — “pick a book” — that provides personally-crafted scrapbooks for any occasion. I receive orders from people, so [my designs] are made to order. Many people know I like doing it and asked me to do it for them, and they will buy stuff and I assemble it for them, but then, over time, I thought why I don’t make money out of it?

Q: Where do you see yourself a year from now? What do you wish to be doing in the future?

A: If I go home, I’m hoping to make my scrapbooking business bigger than what it is now. I have some ideas to expand it and stuff, but we have to test it out. So if I don’t go home, it’s not the end of the world. I do have other plans. I want to have my own business, work at my own pace and time, and be able to be in control.

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