Russian leaves home for higher education

Tucked in a corner of the Student Services Building is the International Student Office, where an estimated 450 international students are enrolled and guided while they obtain a degree from Weber State University.

Anka Ivanova, a 20-year old Russian who is a senior at Weber State University, has been working in the International Student Office for two years.

“My mother wanted me to get a good education, and she knew I would have to come to America in order to receive that,” Ivanova said. “The price that international students have to pay at Weber State was one of the cheapest across the country.”

Upon arriving, Ivanova, then only 17 years old, was interested in the medical programs WSU had to offer. She is majoring in pre-med/medical lab science and later plans on applying for medical school.

“I love the program that I am in, but it has been harder because English is my second language,” said Ivanova, who was enrolled in ESL classes her first year.

Ivanova said the transition from Russia to America wasn’t as hard as she thought it was going to be. She had never visited the United States before and was going to be moving by herself.

“Culture is different in America,” she said. “Everyone seems to always be doing something all the time. In Russia, families eat dinner together and visit relatives on a weekly basis.”

Having only gone home three times in the past three years, Ivanova said she misses her family and friends the most. She still talks to them via social media and Skype. Her mother has come to visit twice since she enrolled at WSU.

“I have made great friends here in Utah, friendships that will last a lifetime, but I am always happy when I get to go home to visit my mom and friends,” Ivanova added.

Ivanova said working in the International Student Office has helped her stay busy and meet new people.

“I work about 20 hours a week and, with a full course load, that is enough for me,” she said.

As an office assistant, Ivanova is responsible for updating the website for the International Student Club, planning events, and helping students with their I-20 visas and enrollment into the school.

“Anka has been a huge help in the office for the past two years,” said Joyce Karen Garcia, the SEVIS coordinator at the International Student and Scholar Center. “She is a hard worker and can relate to new international students that may have a difficult time being away from their families. . . . We have only hired international students to work the position that Anka is currently working because of the connection they have with other international students.”

One thing Ivanova said she misses is the night life in Russia.

California native Michelle Strickland and Ivanova hit it off immediately; they have become very good friends and are now living together in an apartment.

“Anka is like a sister to me now, and I love living with her,” Strickland said. “I have gotten to try new foods, experience different holiday traditions, and even learned a few words in Russian.”

Ivanova said she wants to earn her degrees and plans on trying to get a job in the US.

“There are more job opportunities in America, and I want to give back to the country that gave me a great education,” she said.

In the meantime, she is focusing on school, but wouldn’t mind “finding an American boyfriend,” a laughing Ivanova said.