Colleges' graduations go global
May 12, 2001

By Loretta Fulton
Reporter-News Staff Writer

As soon as Jeff Ng flips his tassel to the right side of his mortar board today, his mom will know he's a college graduate, even if she didn't understand a word of the commencement ceremony.

Ng's mother, Oman, is one of a number of parents of international students in town this weekend to attend graduation ceremonies at Abilene Christian, McMurry and Hardin-Simmons universities.

Ng and his mother are natives of Macau, in southeastern China. Although Ng, an accounting and finance major at ACU, is proficient in English, his mother never needed to learn a second language. But not even a language barrier and a 20-hour trip could keep her from watching her son receive his diploma.

"She's been waiting for this day," Ng said.

ACU is graduating 22 international students, but not all will have parents in attendance for today's ceremony.

Michael Obhudo, an ACU student from Kenya, won't have any family members watching him graduate, but he plans to go home later in the summer before returning to the United States to attend graduate school. Obhudo explained the travel is too expensive.

A fellow ACU student, Suzanne Dickenson of Jamaica, won't have her parents here, but an older brother made the trip to watch her receive a master's degree in school administration.

"I wanted him to come and experience the whole thing," she said.

A couple of international students at McMurry University will have their proud parents in the audience when they get their diplomas. The parents of Anya Malyuta from Ukraine and Andrew Ottaro from Kenya are both in town for the festivities.

Malyuta attended high school in New Mexico under the sponsorship of a missionary couple she met in Ukraine in 1995. She visited her parents in Ukraine last Christmas, but before that she hadn't seen them in two years. She wanted them here for graduation so badly she worked three jobs last year to help pay their way.

"That was my dream to get them here for graduation," she said.

For one Hardin-Simmons student, the roles are reversed. Jeanne Jester got back to Abilene last week after spending the school year in South Africa. Her parents only have to drive from Waco to attend their daughter's graduation.

Jester, a social work major, did her field placement work at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, which has a cooperative agreement with Hardin-Simmons.

Getting parents of international students in town for graduation is not always easy, said Ellen Presley, international student counselor and adviser at Abilene Christian University.

Sometimes the expense is prohibitive and the parents may have trouble getting visas. Presley frequently sends letters to the American consulate in countries that are reluctant to issue travel visas. Most of the time, she is successful.

ACU also hosts a spring banquet for international students and a reception and tea the day before graduation so parents can attend.

Having parents in town for graduation is a double treat for international students, who in many instances don't go home for four years. For ACU's Jeff Ng, having mom around for a few days brought several blessings.

"She's cooking for me every day," he said. "It's nice to taste home food."

Contact learning writer Loretta Fulton at 676-6778 or


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