Featured Alumna - Kiki van Essen - The Netherlands

By Kiki van Essen, Green River Alumna, November 1, 2019

If you told anyone in September 2012 that I was going to get my AA, BS, and MA in the U.S., you would have been laughed at. Had you told everyone I was going to look at getting my Ph.D., everyone, including myself, would have declared you crazy.

In my first month at Green River College, I was young, insecure about my English, and terribly lonely. During the first week of orientation, I told the staff at Green River I was going home after the first quarter never to return. This, fortunately, did not happen. During my first quarter at Green River, I got involved in a lot of activities. I became an International Student Ambassador Apprentice, Marketing Assistant, Peer Mentor, President of the European Club, and participated in countless other activities. These opportunities Green River provided me were vital to my integration into the US. After 3 months, I was not ready to leave. I had started loving my time at Green River, the staff, and my new friends.

During my time at Green River, I had a chance to try a variety of different classes and majors. When I arrived, I was studying Biology, however, after taking a few biology classes, and working on campus, I found that I was much more interested in studying a business-related field. It wasn’t until I took my first Communication Studies course that I found out what my true passion was. My Communication instructors gave me the courage to express my desire to get my Ph.D. in Communication Studies for the first time.

After Green River, I worked in Australia for a year and transferred to Minnesota State University-Mankato to study Communication Studies. I finished my B.S. within a year and decided to continue at Minnesota State University to get my M.A. with a Graduate Teaching Assistant position, teaching two Fundamentals of Communication classes per semester. The full tuition waiver and stipend that came with that allowed me to continue studying in the U.S. instead of going back to Europe. During this program, I found that my experience at Green River set me up for my research interest in international students. I have written research papers on belonging for international students and will continue to research the needs of students studying abroad.

Without my initial challenges and the help I got at Green River, I would not have gotten where I am at today. Green River gave me a chance to explore who I am, find out my interest, and get confidence in my own ability. At Green River, I have created friendships that will last a lifetime and reaches across borders and time zones. To me, Green River truly has been a place where the world meets.

Kiki graduates from Minnesota State


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