Amherst Magazine

Waiting for the Van

By Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne ’01

Photos by Jessica Scranton

[New Faces] Huddled within a barricade of suitcases at Logan Airport, three new acquaintances sat waiting for a ride. Unlike their American classmates, who’d arrive on campus with full cars and parents in tow, these members of the Class of 2017 had flown into Boston alone. Now the students—Khishigsuren Jargalsaikhan, from Mongolia; Samantha Tatenda Nyovanie, from Zimbabwe; and Adrian Chan, from Hong Kong—were waiting for a van to campus. The transport is coordinated each year by the International Students Association and the International Student Life Fellow. On Aug. 22, four shuttles carried 18 new international students from Logan to Amherst.

International students meeting at airport

From left: Kasope Alesh ’14 waits for new arrivals; Mia Ólafsdóttir Kaaber ’17 of Iceland gets a hug from Nancy Yun Tang '14; Pascual Cortes-Monroy ’17 of Chile;Tran Bao ’17 (with sign) and Nhi Truong ’17 of Vietnam

But how does such a journey begin? Chan learned about Amherst when an admission officer visited his high school. “I wanted to go to a liberal arts school with need-blind admissions,” he said. “I needed lots of financial aid.” His two new classmates nodded in agreement.

“Not very many people from Mongolia go abroad for school or go to America,” said Jargalsaikhan. “We are only now starting to know about other schools.”

Nyovanie’s brother went to MIT and has a friend at Amherst. This friend was a pushy guide: “He was asking, ‘Did you finish your essay yet? Your application?’ It was motivating to apply knowing there is someone from your country there.” She liked the liberal arts curriculum, so different from the British system of her country. “Zimbabwe was a British colony,” she began to explain.

“Colonies!” Chan piped in. They fist-bumped over a shared imperial history.

She asked, “Did you bring noodles from Hong Kong?”

“No. There is an Asian store near Amherst,” Chan said. “Google Maps. So useful.”

“Otherwise you could go to China City,” she offered.

“I know, right? I could go to Chinatown.”

“Oh, yes. Chinatown,” she nodded, studiously.

Xiao Xiao ’16, a student from Singapore assigned to meet this group, blew in and handed over an envelope full of cash. “You can get lunch. There is $100. But there is another person coming, so, you know, don’t spend it all.”

Soon they found the other student. Daniel Mariselli, from Peru by way of Florida, wore a purple Amherst shirt.

“Are you going to Amherst?” Chan asked, perhaps unnecessarily.  

“Yes,” Mariselli said. This was to be his first time seeing the college. “I met some Williams students and almost got into fisticuffs with them,” he said with a smile.

International students meeting at airport

From left: Nancy Yun Tang ’14, Joyce Wamala ’17 (Zimbabwe) and Jayson Paul ’16; Mia Ólafsdóttir Kaaber ’17 (Iceland) and Luka Matej Devenica ’17 (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Takudzwa Taphema ’17 and classmates. 

Upstairs, the group spent $48.72 on pulled-pork and turkey sandwiches. They ordered no drinks, having not yet learned the first rule of being an Amherst student: When the college gives you money, spend all of it. Instead, they tucked change and receipts into an envelope and stood chatting in a circle.

“I’m in Stearns,” one student offered.

“Wait, you’re in Stearns? I’m in Stearns.”

Jargalsaikhan, not in Stearns, gave her dorm. “That’s a good one, right?” she asked.
Sandwiches acquired, they headed down the escalator.

For most of the students at Logan that day, it was their first time in the United States. They’d brought their lives in just a few bags. (Takudzwa Tapfuma, from Zimbabwe, held just one tiny carry-on and a backpack.)

Xiao hustled the group out to a parking lot. A white van awaited. Within moments, they were off on their first drive in America, off to their home for the next four years.