New international student director shares her own experiences

By Albert Shelby

October 30, 2012

Amy Kotwani, Missouri Western’s new international student director.

Coming to a new school or community always has its ups and downs. When you are an international student, fitting in and getting use to another country can be even more difficult.Amy Kotwani, Missouri Western’s new international student director understands that and it is her job to make sure all international students are cared for.

“It is my job to work with Admissions to get more international students to come here to Western,” Kotwani said. “When the international students come, I do programming for them, new student orientation and if they have any emergencies, they call me.”

The Kotwani family is from India, but she was born in Kingsport, Tenn. She grew up in Virginia before eventually moving to St. Joseph, Mo for high school, and has been a resident for several years.

When headed into college, Kotwani took up journalism, advertising and political science so she could be educated about all three areas.

“For college, I went to Mizzou,” Kotwani said. “In their journalism program, you could pick a sequence so I picked the advertising sequence in the journalism program and I did the same with political science. So I did a double major.”

Prior to working at Western, Kotwani did a lot of volunteering work with the organizations here on campus. Before she was offered the job, Kotwani was already familiar with how things worked.

One of Kotwani passions is culture. She noted that she is heavily evolved in the Indian culture in St. Joseph. Dancing is a huge part in the culture and in her spare time she enjoys dancing at different culture events.

Kotwani admitted that when she was younger she did not have many friends that were Indian. She did not know much about the culture because the only people she knew of the Indian culture was her parents.

“I always wanted to be apart of my culture,” Kotwani said. “My parents were the only members from my family to come here from India. All my relatives were in India when I was growing up, so I have always felt a little starved for the culture.”

She started to get involved with culture more when she went to the University of Missouri. Kotwani started to participate in dance recitals in the school and eventually she was surrounded by all types of culture and it helped her fill that missing element in her life.

She ended up being the president for the Indian organization at Missouri.

Kotwani feels that she can relate to the international students on campus because she was once in the same situation. She understands how it feels to try to fit in a place where you are literally the only member of your culture.

“We have a good international student population,” Kotwani said. “But some of them might be the only one’s here from their culture. They are coming to a place new to them. At home, they are around people that are similar to them and their comfortable.”

She is very passionate about the international students because having to go through the same thing, she knows what to expect.

“I know what it feels like to feel like you are different from everyone else,” Kotwani said. “I also know how rough it is to fit in. That’s why I am really passionate about making sure that the international students here have a real positive experience and feel like they have a good support system.”

Some of the international students here at Western really do not have any experience here in the United States. They live with there parents in their respective countries and then are sent to the states for school.

Gilbert Imbiri is an international student from Indonesia. Imbiri was sent to states for school as well. He started out in high school here in St. Joe and eventually enrolled at
Western.

“I like it here,” Imbiri said. “Everybody here is very laid back. I’m really good with adapting to things. With Amy being hired, I feel like we have somebody that knows what we go through. She can help the students here that do have problems with adapting.”

Imbiri feels that Kotwani catches on to things fast. She fits in to what it means to be an international student director.

“I like somebody to take charge,” Imbiri said. “It’s upsetting to the international students when they found out the director is not involved. We do not have to worry about that with Amy.”