Photo: Coosa Christian international students Karafil and Pavjol Hoxhallari gather for a photo with the school’s international host coordinator David Ford while visiting Atlanta. (Submitted photo)
For the past 10 years, Coosa Christian has broadened its scope of international students by bringing in students from countries new to the school, including South Korea, China, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, Germany, Ukraine, Italy, Denmark, Brazil and France.
“As part of its ministry, Coosa Christian has been known for welcoming international students from all across the globe for decades,” said David Ford, a school board member and international hosting coordinator.
In 2018, Coosa welcomed its first Albanian student, Karafil Hoxhallari, who then became the first Albanian student at the University of North Alabama. Three years later, Coosa welcomed its second Albanian, Karafil’s brother Pavjol.
“I’ve enjoyed America so much and have been so pleased with my educational opportunities here, that I wanted to share the experience with my younger brother,” said Karafil. “Pavjol had been wanting to come for years since my adventure started. Coosa Christian School helped make that possible, and we both are expecting a long-term experience here.”
The Hoxhallari brothers noted that while they love their home country, the opportunities for a quality education, spiritual growth and for unique career opportunities are what attracted them to America.
“We have made many friends here, and have had so many people welcome us, befriend us, and care about us here that we never would have thought possible before we arrived,” said Karafil. “Not only did Coosa Christian School welcome me to their school family, but the University of North Alabama also made it easy for me to transition to college life, which led me down the path to a college degree and hopefully an outstanding career here.”
Karafil was inspired by Coosa Christian’s the first students from both Turkmenistan and Turkey, who were both hosted by Ford. Kuwat Jorayev is now getting his master’s degree at Jacksonville State University and already has a job opportunity, while Orkun has a degree from JSU and ls working for an American company and has an American wife and child.
The Albanian students say that religion is another reason they enjoy becoming a part of America.
“There are so many churches and opportunities for spiritual growth here,” said Pavjol. “We have seen traditional type churches in Albania but enjoy experiencing the American churches, where Christianity and our relationship with God is shared with praise music, casual dress and speakers that move around, tell stories and make the Bible so interesting. And we have study groups designed just for us students.”
Coosa Christian offers a weekly chapel program with different speakers each week. Pavjol shared that both he and his brother find it fascinating to “hear different men and women of a variety of ages and races talk about God and their relationship with Jesus Christ.”
Pavjol, who plans to pursue a college degree here, and perhaps even a career, said that “it doesn’t take us but a day or two to get home if we need to, but, with cell phones and computers, we can talk to, and even see, our families back home as often as we like. We are far from home, but it doesn’t always feel that way.”
Albania, which borders Macedonia and Greece, is about a day’s travel by air. Because rice is a staple food in Albania, the brothers have enjoyed all of the Asian and most of the Mexican restaurants around Gadsden. Karafil added that he enjoys places such as Pruett’s, Barney’s, The Choice and Beans ‘N Greens.
“Our host family likes hometown places with good food, and we have learned to enjoy that as well,” said Karafil, who is learning to be a cook. “I would love to open an Albanian restaurant here. It would be a great success, but I think a career in business might be a little more feasible.”
The brothers love to hike and visit Noccalula Falls and Mount Cheaha. Karafil, who spent two years attending school in Wisconsin, much prefers Alabama weather.
“I’d like to stay [in the] south if possible,” he said. “The people, the atmosphere and the weather are great.”
For more information about hosting an international student at Coosa Christian School, contact Amanda Justus at 256-547-1841.
Submitted by David Ford