Alfred University News

International students from Alfred University take weekend trip to Washington, D.C.

Eight Alfred University students, six of them members of the International Students Association, went on a weekend trip to Washington, D.C., where they toured the White House and visited other key sites in the nation’s capital. The trip continues the ISA’s efforts to provide students with diverse experiences through exposure to different American cities.

“The United States is a very big country and there is a lot to explore. Taking advantage of going on these trips is a plus, especially for those who aspire to work and live in the United States,” Brian Ngatunga, president of the ISA, remarked after the March 22-24 venture to Washington.

“As a club, we travel to a different American city each semester to provide diverse experiences to students,” said Ngatunga, a senior business analytics major with a minor in marketing from Tanzania, Africa, referring to past trips the ISA has taken to New York City, Boston, MA, and Pittsburgh, PA. “A trip like this could give a student a small picture or preview of what life, culture, and overall feel is like in a particular city. The experience in Alfred, NY, is very different from Boston. Students enjoy going to various attractions in the cities visited and see how unique they are from other cities.”

On their trip to Washington, the students, accompanied by Rachael Smith-Vaughan, associate director of regional admissions at Alfred University, visited the White House.

“The Secret Service at the White House provided information about the East Wing as we toured,” noted Ngatunga, who also visited Washington, and the White House, during a DC Purple Cities Leadership Forum held in March 2023. “It was fascinating for students to learn that after 1 p.m., the touring spaces are reversed back to a normal living space for the President and his family. So, we were actually ‘house guests’.”

Of the eight students who went on the trip, six were from either France or the African nations of Tanzania and South Africa. In addition to the White House, the group had the opportunity to visit various monuments in the city and tour the Planet Word Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Some of the students spoke of the benefits of going on the ISA-organized trips, which ranged from developing camaraderie and relationships among fellow students and learning about other cultures through travel.

“I would say that the greatest benefits for attending trips like this as an international student are the connections I made with the other students,” said Clement Petri, a glass science and engineering student from France. “The fact that we were together for the visits and the meals helped a lot to learn from all the cultures and experiences that are different for everyone, and I am really glad to see other perspectives while we’re doing the same thing. Plus, even if we had really bad weather, I enjoyed very much the activities we did during the weekend, because I wouldn't have done them if I'd come alone.”

“The shared happiness of our experiences with fellow international students in Washington, D.C., played a pivotal role in strengthening our friendship and a sense of belonging as a family,” added Yohana Katani, a first-year computer science major from Tanzania.

“Alfred can feel very small and it’s very good for international students to learn through travel, not only education,” remarked Nkanyiso Dlamini, a sophomore philosophy and theater major from South Africa, who also serves as events coordinator and social media manager for the club. “There’s more to do so we can be kept busy. If you don’t have a car (in Alfred) it’s really difficult to go places and this gives us the opportunity to see new things constantly.”

The trip to Washington was bittersweet for Ngatunga, who in 2022 led efforts to resurrect the International Student Association, which had been inactive for several years.

“I am immensely proud of the remarkable growth our club has achieved,” he said. “While it saddens me to acknowledge that my journey with the club is drawing to a close as I transition to the next chapter of my life, the memories, and bonds made will forever hold a special place in my heart.”