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‘Resting in God’s promises’: How international students adapt to life at ORU

One out of five ORU students, including Justin Rodríguez, Natalia Benítez and Lizbanny Vergara, come from outside the United States. ORU international students represent 129 different countries, based on fall’s enrollment census data. Here are the top eleven: Nigeria, Honduras, El Salvador, China, India, Brazil, Ghana, Bahamas, Colombia, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Zimbabwee.

Two years ago, when Natalia Benítez first moved with her mother from Honduras to the United States, “home” was still in her home country, whether it was because of the food, the climate or loneliness.


Going to high school in Mississippi, she missed family members like her cousin who lived near her in Honduras. It was an arduous job as a newcomer to make long-lasting relationships. Part of her support system was another international student who used to walk and talk with her on Friday afternoons.


Moving to Tulsa in early August, Benítez now attends Oral Roberts University as a finance student and her experiences as a first-year student have greatly changed her narrative.


Enrollment has increased for 15 consecutive years, and as the student population has grown the number of international students on campus has grown too.


This semester marked a milestone for ORU, now having 19.9% of international students from 129 countries represented in its community, according to Jaime Bofferding, ORU director of Enrollment Marketing.


Justin Rodríguez, a Honduran studying finance, and Lizbanny Vergara, a Colombian majoring in biology, are two other international students with different stories to tell.


“My first day was a bit tedious,” said Rodríguez. “At first, I felt as if I had a weight over me … I thought I would be rejected.”


Vergara, similarly, said, “I was a little sad, feeling homesick and didn’t have someone close to talk to at the moment.”


Internationally students described taking lunch to go from the dining hall and eating alone in their dorms, staring at the roof during the night or feeling an overwhelming sense of alienation during the challenging first days and weeks of the semester.


Resting in God’s promises has kept Rodriguez and Vergara going, they said. Vergara’s heart held on to God, knowing that He brought her to ORU not to feel sorrow but because it was His plan for her.


“The presence of God makes me feel that tranquility that can only come from Him,” said Rodríguez. “He makes me feel at home.”


Contrasting her arrival to the United States two years ago, Benítez managed to eventually feel part of a community at ORU.


“Well, I’m really surprised,” said Benítez. “I didn’t expect to make so many friends from the beginning, but since the first day, the people have been very welcoming, both from my own country, international students and the United States.”


At campus, there are several sidewalks to get to the same place: some straight, others curvy. Over these weeks, new international students have been finding their way along those sidewalks, and some have already arrived at their destination, having friends, feeling part of a community and adapting to a new experience.


“I am still in the process, but every day is better than the last,” said one of the interviewed students.

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About the Contributor
Josué Ariza Puerta
Josué Ariza Puerta, Staff Writer
Passionate about the world of arts, I am a Writing major with a concentration in Journalism and minoring in Graphic Design. My other interests include cinema and a good Colombian morning coffee.

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