Although many may believe international students are best recognized by a different accent, skin color, or clothing choice than the majority of students on Dordt’s campus, many international students blend in quite a bit more. David Kusserow, a 20-year-old freshman, is one of those students.
Kusserow was actually born in the United States. He lived in Pineville, North Carolina, until he was a toddler, moved to Canada while his father studied French in Quebec, and then moved with his missionary family to Niger, West Africa, when he was about five years old. Kusserow has called Niger his home until July 18, 2012, when he traveled back to the United States with his family on furlough and began attending Dordt in August.
In addition, to the moves, Kusserow’s family also spent a year at home in the United States after spending every three or four years in Niger. Kusserow lived with his family until he graduated high school. After high school, he decided to take a gap year and volunteer at a mission hospital in Niger, so he lived in his own tiny apartment on the opposite side of the country from his family.
Kusserow’s decision to attend Dordt after the gap year was a pretty straight-forward, obvious decision, because he wanted to study agriculture at a small Christian school, and Dordt is one of the only schools in the United States with both a Christian foundation and well-developed agricultural program.
Kusserow has expressed only one hesitation in his college decision. “I really, really didn’t want to come to Iowa because it’s cold in Iowa,” he shared, “but studying agriculture is more important than being warm.”
At Dordt, Kusserow is a resident of North Hall and is an Agriculture Major. He has recently become involved with Prayer for the Nations and Mu Kappa, a club for missionary and third culture kids.
Kusserow loves the welcoming, friendly community at Dordt and that students are taught to “do things in a way that honors God.” Already in his first semester, he believes he has learned quite a bit about “relating to people and broadening [his] perspective.”
Although Kusserow appreciates his experience at Dordt immensely thus far, he has felt like an outsider a few times already. In agriculture classes, Kusserow doesn’t like the huge emphasis on professionalism because agriculture in Niger’s culture simply isn’t set up for that. “It [professionalism] is a good thing,” he said, “but it’s not me.”
Kusserow also feels left-out occasionally because he is not a “farm kid.” The farming community he grew up in was a “small-scale, non-mechanized community.” He doesn’t wear boots and doesn’t talk the same way as the majority of the agriculture majors, so feeling a part of the department has been a recent challenge.
On campus as a whole, however, Kusserow feels welcome. “People are actually interested in where I’m from,” he shared excitedly. “I never feel like an intruder or like I’m sitting on the edge of groups I have to fit into.” Kusserow spends much of his free time with international students, including sitting with them in the commons. Kusserow says the international students always sit together, but he wishes there wouldn’t always be that separation.
Overall, Kusserow would love for American students to tell international students about where they are from. Niger is foreign, new, and exciting to most of campus, but Iowa is also new and fascinating to Kusserow. “The first time that I came to Iowa was the day before I moved into Dordt,” Kusserow admitted. He believes one of the hardest things at Dordt is related to people without knowing anything about them.
Kusserow shouldn’t be thought of as just another international student, agriculture major, or missionary kid from Niger. Instead, Kusserow is a freshman with a unique past who would like to know about American students just as much as they would like to know him.
Kristin Janssen, Staff Writer