Alfonc Rakaj is the first person in his family to graduate University. In search of the best possible education, he left his home in Albania as a teenager to finish his high school education in Oregon at Santiam Christian.
To his surprise, he was able to graduate early and apply to Oregon State.
“I was familiar with the school, and I’m very happy with my decision to go to school here,” he said.
Albania’s education system is more formal. Rakaj said students are provided next to no interaction with their professors, something he enjoyed daily while studying at Oregon State.
Rakaj will graduate with degrees in Political science and international studies. He was originally interested in history and geography, though unsure of where that course of study might lead him.
“Studying history is like having the recipe for my favorite dish, but not the ingredients to actually make it.” Rakaj’s goal is to return to Albania and be part of the government there.
“There’s a lot I have learned here that I will take with me,” he explained.
Rakaj is proud of his heritage, and participated in the European Student Association on campus, where members often joke about how much they learn about their home continent of Europe at Oregon State University.
During his time studying in Oregon, Rakaj found himself back in Europe for an internship with the Scottish Parliament. He was selected through a competitive process. The internship is open to students at 17 Universities in the Pacific Northwest.
“Only two per year are accepted,” said Dawn Moyer, Education Abroad Advisor. “Alfonc was so deserving. He is an inspiration to others.”
He said his experience in Scotland not only complemented his academic studies, but also taught him about himself.
“Through that experience, I learned I definitely want to go back to Europe,” he said. Rakaj was a member of student government at Oregon State and participated in a host of other opportunities.
“I have not simply gone to school here,” he said.
Oregon State isn’t just a college campus to him. During the five years Rakaj spent at Oregon State, campus became his home. He knows many of the nooks and crannies of the Memorial Union like the back of his hand.
His advice to other students?
“Challenge yourself,” he said. “The benefits of doing that are just invaluable.”