Growing up in Springfield, Ill., in the very center of America, Donovan Kavish ’13 never had a chance to travel overseas. Indeed, in this Middle American city of 118,000—best known as the home of Abraham Lincoln—the football-playing young man had rarely even met a person from another country.

Nevertheless, by age 17 Kavish was already an international news junkie who craved a college that would open up the world to him. So perhaps it’s not surprising that three years later Kavish finds himself preparing to spend a semester in Serbia, encouraged by his best friends—from Bosnia and Macedonia. 

Kavish met Dragana Marinkovic ’13 (Bijeljina, Bosnia) during his first semester at Macalester, when they had two classes together—German and Introduction to International Studies. Now roommates, “we’ve been friends ever since,” says Kavish.  

Through her, Kavish has gotten acquainted with other international students, many of whom are, like Marinkovic, Davis United World College Scholars. He especially hit it off with Ilija Prachkovski ’14 (Delcevo, Macedonia), whose family Kavish will visit before he starts his SIT program in Belgrade. He chose that particular study abroad program both because of his Eastern European friends and because its subject matter, “Peace and Conflict Studies in the Balkans,” is of special interest to him.  

“I’ve changed so much since I’ve been here at Mac,” Donovan says, “knowing [my friends], listening to them in class, and having their perspectives on everything.”

Kavish—an international studies and media studies major—knows he’s heading for some cross-cultural bumps in the road, but he’s ready for that after watching his international friends navigate U.S.-European differences. “Sarcasm is one thing they have to get used to,” he laughs. “And another is waiters. What we consider good service—the waiter returning to the table over and over again—they find really annoying.” 

Then there’s football, a sport Kavish was deeply involved in, when as a first-year and sophomore he played for Mac’s team. “My family came up one weekend from Illinois and sat with a group of my friends at a game,” he recalls. “A friend from Jordan was there who had no idea what was going on but kept jumping up and shouting in Arabic. My parents are still talking about it.” 

As he gets ready to head off to Serbia, Bosnia, and Kosovo for half a year, Kavish knows not to expect to get coffee there “to-go.” “That is not how Europeans do coffee,” he laughs. “You better expect to sit there for a few hours if you’re meeting someone for coffee.” 

But all joking aside, Kavish realizes that his friends from around the world have truly transformed his life. He hopes to someday earn a master’s in foreign affairs and perhaps win a Fulbright to study further in Europe. “I’ve changed so much since I’ve been here at Mac,” he says, “knowing them, listening to them in class, and having their perspectives on everything. 

“One of my favorite things about Macalester is having classmates from all over the world. No one has had the same experiences in life and everyone has something to offer to the conversation. It has allowed me to learn more than I ever could have dreamed of.”

Marinkovic and Prachkovski are among Macalester’s Davis United World College Scholars.

January 3 2012

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