International Saint Spotlight

Current Students 

Martina Devetak, '19, Italy

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Ukrainian and Italian first-year student Martina Devetak is more than ready to take on all that Aquinas College has to offer. After arriving in the United States, Devetak says she was very quick to adjust to the American lifestyle, even though there are some big differences between the lifestyle of the two countries. 

“I really appreciate how organized the school system here in the U.S. is,” says Devetak. “Back home we rarely got a notice as to when we would have an exam and I feel as though I am able to have more opportunities and control over my studies and future career here in America .”

 Having played tennis for nine years, Devetak dedicates a lot of her time and energy to this sport as she is proud to be part of the AQ Women’s Tennis Team. Devetak says she is especially excited to be flying to Florida for the first time with her team this spring break for a tournament. She hopes to turn her love of sports into a career by majoring in Sports Management. “I was thrilled to find out that Aquinas has a Sports Management major because that doesn’t even exist in Ukraine," she said. By pursuing her dream, Devetak hopes to move out to a big city (preferably New York or Chicago) after she finishes her studies at AQ, and continue doing what she loves. 

Devetak says her favorite class, First Year Experience, is very beneficial and helpful because she can go to this class and talk about any problems or concerns she may have while adjusting to this new lifestyle. Devetak also had the opportunity to visit Chicago several times, and being a city girl, she absolutely fell in love with everything the city had to offer. Coming from a fairly big city in Ukraine (Lviv), she was glad to find a piece of that city life in Chicago. 

Devetak says she is proud of her ability to speak four languages fluently – English, Ukrainian, Russian, and Slovenian - and she hopes to add Spanish to that list while at Aquinas. Devetak says she is ecstatic about all of the opportunities that she's had and will continue to have. 


Sofia Lesica, '19, Italy

photo of a student “Where’s the gelato?” asks the Italian student of the confused American. This is but one of the many cultural differences noted by some of our friendly new guests at Aquinas College. This Fall, Aquinas College welcomed many international students onto campus for the year. Among them, Sofia Lesica, who left her home in Northern Italy for the squirrel-filled woodlands of Aquinas College. 

“I’d never been to the states before,” said Lesica, “I was shy at first, some people would make jokes and I wouldn’t get them. Learning the language was probably the biggest obstacle.” 

Despite the language barrier, Lesica reported that she has had a great experience overall, especially at orientation, stating, “it was so much fun, and it was nice to have a group of other  international students to experience it with.” Although she rarely strayed from her international cohort last semester, Lesica says she has a goal to be more intentional this spring in meeting new people. “I love my home,” stated Lesica, continuing, “but I have already made so many strong and deep relationships with people here, and I want to keep doing that.” When asked about what she missed most about home, Lesica said, “obviously family, they are so dear to me.” A smile crept to her face as she continued, “But also the food. Wege has a lot of healthy options, but there is nothing like what we eat at home.” Lesica also shared her trouble with some of the American consumerism, like sales tax not appearing on price tags, and that it is often more expensive to eat healthy than otherwise. 

But food isn’t the only thing Lesica feels strongly about. The 19-year-old is currently working toward a degree in Biology, and has a particular interest in psychology and neuroscience for her minor. When asked about her classes, Lesica stated, “I’ve studied philosophy, art, and history for five years, so I am more drawn to my neurology and zoology classes.” Lesica’s passion for psychology stems from both her fascination with the human brain, and how it affects people socially. “For example,” she said, “I’ve noticed people here in the states aren’t as keen on touch as we are in Italy.” Lesica affirmed the Italian stereotype of kissing friends and family on the cheek, and hugging a lot. “I’ve had to watch myself to not be too touchy here, too many boys think I’m flirting with them,” she joked. “But I find it very interesting to think about that - the psychology of a culture.” 

There is certainly no better way to study psychosocial dynamics of a culture than being immersed in a new one for the academic year, and Lesica can now be found more frequently in the upper moose, as she just landed a job with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion office. Be sure to stop and say hello to our new addition to Sainthood — who knows, you might even walk away with a friendly peck on the cheek!

Aaron Passchier ’18, Germany

photo of a student"The classes at Aquinas are intellectually stimulating while also encouraging individualism, which I really appreciate. The classes are small enough to feel unique and be your own person. Whenever there are challenges or problems you feel you can't overcome, there are always opportunities to seek help either from faculty or classmates. In turn, everyone is extremely friendly and inclusive and your every traits are found to be valued in one way or another.

You have chances to make friends with a bunch of great people who come in all kinds of colors and shapes, both physically and mentally. Most importantly you will be respected for who you are and the path you have decided to walk on to reach your goals, while not losing yourself. Something that may happen oh so easily at this stage of life. Whether you are an extrovert who enjoys people's company or you are more of an introvert, like me, people will not disappear but instead be excited and ready for you when you do in fact decide to interact.

I also love the fact that due to the liberal arts aspect of this college, you are required to engage in non-major-related classes such as in my case, philosophy, history, science, communication, etc., which keeps your perspective ever-changing."

Anna Musiyenko, Ukraine
 photo of a studentSophomore Anna Musiyenko has always loved traveling. Throughout her childhood, she would venture from her hometown of Kharkiv in Ukraine to different parts of Europe. So America, in a way, was another travel destination, a new experience for her. Musiyenko didn’t always want to go to the United States, however. Initially she planned on attending an undergraduate institution in Ukraine and moving on to a graduate school in France to study law. This all changed when her parents found an organization that could send her to the States to play tennis on a scholarship. Within her first semester, her reluctance had vanished. “I loved it,” said Musiyenko. “I cannot say I regret coming here. It was a good change in my life.”

Upon arriving on the other side of the Atlantic, Musiyenko arrived in South Carolina, but quickly transferred to Malone University in Ohio. She made friends in both places and discovered so much about America. After the tennis team at Malone disbanded, she looked toward Aquinas College. Though she loves being in America, she does miss parts of Ukraine. Living in the large city of Kharkiv, she was always surrounded by activity. She also misses the readily available healthy foods in Ukraine as opposed to the overabundance of fast food in the U.S
For now, Musiyenko plans on finishing her undergraduate here and possibly continuing school in Europe. No longer desiring to study law, she is pursuing communications (she is involved in both The Saint and AQ Sound). With Ukraine’s culture of deciding on a career early, Musiyenko did not realize this was her passion until she began studying in Grand Rapids.

Since attending Aquinas, Musiyenko has moved close to campus and is getting adjusted to being a commuter student. In addition to the clubs already mentioned, Musiyenko has a full load with tennis and class. When not doing any of the above, she enjoys exploring Grand Rapids, shopping, and seeing live music. Okean Elzy (Elza’s Ocean in English), a popular rock band from Ukraine, is her favorite band, but she enjoys Green Day, Maroon 5, and jazz music, as well. Tennis remains one of her largest time commitments, however. Musiyenko has been playing since she was 10 years old, citing it as one of her favorite sports. “It’s a very individual-based sport,” said Musiyenko. “You have to count on yourself.” She had to choose tennis carefully; in Ukraine, schools don’t have sports teams. One has to pay to get into a club, so most people only play a single sport. Now that she is in America, she hopes to have the chance to try soccer and lacrosse. In the future, look for Musiyenko chasing the latest story for The Saint, hosting a show on AQ Sound, or serving for the tennis team.

Gabriela Giralt '16, El Salvador

photo of a student"AQ was without a doubt one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It is a place of opportunity! It has highly prepared instructors that actually care about their students’ success. I like that classes are not too crowded and that everyone is willing to help the best way they can. The city is charming, with a gorgeous view and welcoming people. At AQ you can have a real 'American College' experience. It has everything a student needs to reach their goals, and there are many clubs and organizations people can join. I have learned to be independent, but at the same time to know that I can rely on the professors and fellow students when needed. I have learned to feel more confident away from home, and I have the privilege to make friends from all over the world and learn about their culture. As a Catholic I love having the chapel so close on campus and knowing that on my way to classes it (campus) will be full of beautiful trees and eco-friendly buildings."


JiYoun (Maria) Moon ’17, South Korea

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"When I first came to the Aquinas College, my first impression was ‘Wow, everyone is so nice and welcoming!’  I loved both of my Orientation Leaders, they made me want to become an Orientation Leader as well.  I am involved in many organizations on campus, such as AQPB, Student Senate, and the EXCEL Mentor program for Diversity and Inclusion. Since I've been helped by all these great students and faculty members, I wanted to help other incoming students and make them enjoy their college career like I did. This place became my home, and I am proud to say that I am a Saint!"





Alvaro Romero '15, Peru
photo of a student"Aquinas College fue mi primera experiencia en una Universidad de artes liberales. Fue interesante seguir un currículo donde el énfasis en humanidades era una prioridad, y parte de la misión de Aquinas: formar personas íntegras y con una perspectiva global.

Pude siempre observar un enfoque directo profesor-alumno en cada una de las clases. Los instructores estuvieron siempre pendientes del progreso personal de los estudiantes, a la vez que les inculcaban la idea de que son ellos mismos quienes debían buscar el desarrollo y el camino al éxito, pues las herramientas siempre estarían en Aquinas para ayudarlos. Es también una institución que, si bien es pequeña, tiene un gran compromiso con el cuidado del ambiente y la naturaleza, reflejado en distintas actividades que tienen el objetivo de transmitir, desde la institución, los profesores y los alumnos, que es nuestro deber mantener en este planeta un sistema sustentable.
Estudiar en salones que acompañan un frondoso bosque es una de las atracciones visuales que más recuerdo de Aquinas; caminar desde el dormitorio hacia la cafetería o el gimnasio cruzando un riachuelo, viendo árboles que viven las cuatro estaciones y disfrutando el día a día de una gran población de ardillas, no se observa todos los días. Muchos estudiantes en Aquinas tienen un gran interés en conocer gente de diversas culturas y lugares del mundo; todo esto hizo mis años de estudio en Aquinas College una experiencia agradable."
 English translation: 
 "Aquinas College was my first experience at a liberal arts school. It was interesting to follow a curriculum where the emphasis on humanities was a priority, and part of Aquinas’ mission: to educate well-rounded individuals with a global perspective.

 I could always see the faculty-student direct approach in every class. The instructors were always looking after the students’ personal progress, while at the same time encouraging them to become the authors of their own development and success, with Aquinas’ resources always there to help them. This is an institution that, even though small, has a big commitment with the environment and with the nature; proof is this were a number of on-campus activities with the objective of transmitting, through faculty, students and Aquinas itself, that it is our duty to make our planet a sustainable system.

 Studying in classrooms next to a great forest was one of the best visuals I have from Aquinas; walking from my room to the cafeteria or the gym while crossing a creek, witnessing trees go through all four seasons and watching a not-so- small population of squirrels’ everyday activities is not something you can find everywhere. Many students at Aquinas were very interested in knowing people coming from different places, with different cultures. All this made my years of study at Aquinas College a pleasant experience."

Brian Williams '69, Canada
photo of a student"Aquinas is a small college that thinks big. This Catholic Midwestern institution truly opened my eyes to the world and gave me the education and confidence to succeed in life."
- Brian Williams '69, Canadian Broadcaster