Erick Mbembati

Appreciating the family feeling

A long way from home but surrounded by family. That is how Erick Mbembati describes his JCCC experience.

After graduating from high school in Tanzania, Mbembati accepted his uncle’s invitation to live with him and continue his education in the United States. Mbembati arrived at JCCC in August 2009, one week before the fall semester began.

“I didn’t know anything about JCCC other than from the packet I received from my uncle,” Mbembati said. “I had no idea what JCCC looked like or how I would feel.”

It was a strange new world for Mbembati. Not only in getting familiar to American customs and lifestyles, but also learning about college life at JCCC.

“This was my first time being outside my country,” Mbembati said. “It was a little bit overwhelming because I was in a totally different environment. It was very different from my country.”

But that difference didn’t stop Mbembati. The JCCC orientation gave him a snapshot of JCCC, and he welcomed encouragement he received from JCCC Ambassadors. One ambassador, in particular, made a lasting impression on him.

“Kyle Schlicht impressed me because he knew a lot about the school,” Mbembati said. “I also learned from him in how he managed school and work at the same time.”

Theresia Hartanto, the president of the International Club at the time, also influenced Mbembati.

“She was an international student who didn’t know anyone at JCCC when she arrived years earlier. However, in no time at all, she became well known around campus because of her involvement in clubs and organizations.”

Being involved in clubs and organizations is something Mbembati used to overcome the culture shock.

“I first was introduced to the International Club,” he said. “It made a difference in my life. I met new people and made new friends. Without the clubs, I don’t think I would be where I am today. That opened up doors for me. After joining the International Club, I learned about Student Senate and JCCC Student Engagement Ambassadors. These are all groups I’m involved with today. It started as a seed and just grew from there.”

Mbembati has not been back home since he left in 2009, but JCCC provides the family feeling he needs to be successful.

“Carolyn Kadel and Barbara Williams in the International Education office are like second family,” he said. “They give you support that family can give. You leave their office with a smile on your face.”