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When Kemal Demirhisar arrived at RWU in 2008, the prospect of starting over hardly seemed unfamiliar. The Istanbul native first ventured from Turkey to the U.S. as a 16-year-old high school exchange student. His destination? Freetown, Mass., where he acclimated to a host family and began studies amid a class of American teenagers he’d never met. One school year, countless friends and a second set of parents later, it was time to return home, diploma in hand.

OPPORTUNITY OF A LIFETIME: “I became really close with my host family,” Demirhisar says. “I even started calling them mom and dad. When they asked if they could visit me in Turkey, I was glad to have them.” After a two-month stay, Demirhisar’s second set of parents made an offer he couldn’t refuse – the opportunity to attend college in the States. Back in New England, Demirhisar enrolled at Bristol Community College in Fall River, Mass. “After two years at BCC, it was time to move on with my life. My host parents had done enough for me.”

PUTTING THE COMMUNITY IN COLLEGE: Calling on his community service credentials – he was named community service leader of the year at BCC – Demirhisar applied, landed a spot and enrolled at RWU. Eager to add to his legacy, he earned a prompt appointment as student coordinator for Community Connections 2009 and spent some 300 hours coordinating site visits for the freshman day of service. “It’s critical to engage students in their new community. Community Connections gives freshmen the opportunity to learn about the greater community, local leaders as well as their own classmates.”

CONTRASTING CULTURES: “I miss the city I grew up in, Istanbul – delicious Turkish food, traditional Turkish tea and the stress-free lifestyle I enjoyed there.” The academic culture is one of the biggest distinctions, Demirhisar says. “In Turkey, learning leans toward book learning; passing classes is usually determined by two major exams. And there are usually second chances!”

THE WEB DEVELOPMENT MAJOR: “I have been ‘the computer guy’ since I was a child. I spent most of my time either fixing computers or designing websites. Web Development offers not only computer classes, but management, marketing and enterprise – I developed the mind of a businessman as well as the technical skills that I needed for my future.”