For Kirryn Mahabir, coming to Gettysburg from the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago meant attending exactly the kind of college she had in mind for herself-a quality liberal arts college, a school that was "close to so many places"-Baltimore, D.C., New York-a college where she could study math and take a smart first step toward her career. But coming from so far away, it took Kirryn a while to warm up to a new country, a new college, a new environment. "My first year here I was not into much," says the Gettysburg senior. "I didn't allow myself to get out."
Sophomore year all that changed. She became treasurer of the College's International Club, planning fashion shows and Hindu festivals, and cooking a curry from her homeland for the club's Spring Fest. She got involved with the Women's Center and coordinated a conference with sessions on everything from martial arts to knitting. And most significantly, she became a Resident Assistant, serving as mentor and campus resource for a floor of first-year students. "Being an R.A.," Kirryn says, "has been the most rewarding experience-to bring the floor together, to see communities being formed, to create a home."
One of her biggest challenges was building community among students who didn't know each other. One program that helped her is the College's First Year Seminars -- small classes on topics ranging from terrorism to the environment to bioethics. Students taking a particular course live together on the same residence hall floor. "It helps create that initial connection," Kirryn says. "We had a political seminar the year of the elections, and we held a Town Hall on our floor. You'd see people in the halls afterward, arguing."
Kirryn's life outside the classroom has not taken her focus off academics. A senior double-majoring in mathematics and economics, she has a 3.7 grade point average and has received the President Emeritus Award for Leadership and Academics. The serious approach she takes to her studies, she says, is typical of international students: "We're very aware of why we're here and what we're doing. There's no slacking off."
It's the combination of her various involvements that has made Kirryn's Gettysburg experience a success. "I've been involved in so many activities," she says. "I've done well in my studies. I've been respected and liked and successful as an RA. It's been surprising to see how much you can learn from so many different people. Everyone has a different take on a situation. Everyone has a different experience."