Steamboat Springs In a room in the library of Colorado Mountain College's Alpine Campus, four boys from the Netherlands sat in a circle speaking Dutch. Another group in the corner stood around speaking Portuguese. And a third group drank punch, ate cookies and spoke broken English as they laughed and played with the words of their new-found language.
Flags from 21 different countries were hung Thursday from the library rafters at CMC to represent the diverse student population.
With 13 full-time, degree seeking international students and about 28 students enrolled in the English as a Second Language, ESL, program, CMC has fulfilled its worldly educational outlook.
While traveling halfway across the globe to see America, many international students at CMC are not only perfecting their English, they are seeing snow for the first time.
"I'm so glad to stay. We have the opportunity to enjoy the city, at the same time we work," said Rodrigo Silva of Brazil. "This is an experience for all my life. And first time seeing snow."
As a school founded on the idea of being international, this is the first year that CMC has enrolled so many international students.
"I love to study English here. I would like to stay longer, but my work visa is no more," Raquel Assad of Brazil said in broken English.
Benita Bristol and George Tolles, two prominent CMC contributors, said the idea of becoming worldly is not a new phenomenon.
When the college was established in 1962, one-half of the student body consisted of foreign students.
"There is a thread of internationalism. That's been the focus since the beginning, it's characteristic of Steamboat," Tolles said.
Jenny LeRoux, the ESL teacher from South Africa, said the students in her intensive English program are extremely motivated and have an earnest desire to learn.
The English course mostly focuses on writing and conversation, but the students this year have showed interest in learning American slang, she said.
ESL courses are offered at no cost to the students.
Pam Burwell, advisor for the International Student Club, said the club purchased many of the flags, but Dr. Robert Ritschel, dean of students, helped pay for the remainder.
"It's a nice visual color feast," Burwell said of the hanging flags.
As the number of enrolled foreign students changes each year, so will the representative flags, she said.
For the male students of the Netherlands, Steamboat's elevation and America's drinking age were two things they weren't enthusiastic about getting accustomed to.
"We had a dark time getting used to the elevation. We live below sea level," 19-year-old Rico Wien said.
Taking ski trips to Europe every now and then doesn't compare to the abundance of snow and towering mountains that is the true wealth of Steamboat, Wien said.
"And the drinking age is terrible," 19-year-old Frans Reiger Schmick said.
Although the night life hasn't been all they had hoped for, their experience in Steamboat was awesome, they said.
Food is an obstacle Dechen Dhakhwa of Nepal said she has overcome. A store in Denver provides her with Indian food that she cooks at home.
"The people are very willing to help. I came here to learn more. I'm learning everyday new things," 24-year-old Dhakhwa said.
Countries represented by the newly hung flags in the CMC library include: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tibet, Uzbekistan and Venezuela. Great Britain soon will be added, Burwell said.