Skip to main content

GV Now

International students feel at home during presidential visit

  • four people by wooden artwork
  • two people standing by artwork, laughing

Posted on November 09, 2017

Three international students from the island nation of Palau were on hand when their country's president, a Grand Valley alumnus, visited campus in early November.

Tommy Remengesau graduated from Grand Valley in 1979 and established a scholarship to give students from Palau the opportunity to study away from home.

Kimberly Shadel said she came to Grand Valley for an opportunity to live away from the island and focus on her studies. Abigail Gbwonyo was inspired by her sister who graduated from Grand Valley, and Jedidah Mashiro received Remengesau’s scholarship.

All three said they agree that being away from the island has helped them focus on their studies more than if they had chosen to stay in Palau.

“Time here is very fast paced and there’s always something to do,” Mashiro said. “You don’t have an excuse to be bored, and if anything, you run out of time. Back home we have a lot of freedom and it’s very lax — the island life, I guess. You can always decide what you want to do in the middle of the day, but here the pace is set.”

They said they thankful to be in a place where they have a sense of community and familiarity. 

“I like how we’re next to Lake Michigan, so at least we aren’t land locked,” Shadel said. “I like the size of Grand Rapids because it isn’t too big, but it’s the next step up from the island.”

The students attended an event November 2, when a piece of artwork from Palau was dedicated to Remengesau in Lake Ontario Hall.

The artwork was purchased by Grand Valley from a gift shop on the ground's of a jail in Palau. The shop sells items made by prisoners who learn a skill or a trade.

The piece of art shows two different myths on each half of the carving. One side depicts the myth of a story about a spider and natural childbirth; the other is a representation of the myth of a breadfruit tree that could produce fish.  

— written by Marissa LaPorte, student writer