Alfonc Rakaj: ‘Challenge yourself’


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.”

One Response to “Alfonc Rakaj: ‘Challenge yourself’”

  1. Marvel Nichols says:

    Yes, I met Alfonc while in his village of Boga, Albania about 5-6 years ago. It is a struggling little village of only a bit over 300 people. Alfonc helped by translating for me each summer that I visited his village. I was also able to learn more about his culture and that of the villagers while HE got to practice his English!

    For sure Alfonc is to be commended for his success in graduating, actually from High school AND college. In his small village school, they basically use chalk and chalk boards and only recently have had a “lending: library. And they have to go to the city if they want to continue on to High School, leaving their family behind. Most homes do NOT even own a book. Thus, for him to make such a “mark” on campus and focus on how he can better “his” country, while leaving his “prints” of personality here in USA is MORE than commendable. I am confident he will be such a great asset to his own country and will experience much success. CONGRATULATIONS ALFONC.


    Marvel Nichols