Selma impresses visitors

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Selma served as a melting pot for 14 Birmingham Southern College students from various parts of the world on Tuesday.

The students converged on Selma via an exchange program through the Ellie and Herb Sklenar Center for International Programs. The group represents seven countries — the Netherlands, China, England, Morocco, Brazil, Rwanda and Germany.

Anne Ledvina, the center’s associate director, said the trip is intended to give the students a better understanding of the state that will be their home for the next year.

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She said Selma was chosen because of “how important this city is to the state of Alabama, and how important in a positive and powerful way and I am prepared to move here.”

Despite different backgrounds, the students shared two things. All of them saw similarities between Alabama and their home countries. But, they are still trying to decipher the Southern accent.

“It’s very similar to my country. The weather, the people are very warm,” said Nawal Ziad, a native of Casablanca, Morocco. She enrolled in the program as a Fulbright scholar, and teaches Arabic at Birmingham Southern.

“All the people know each other. The accents: I need more time to understand them,” she said.

“There’s a few things like words,” added Emma Tilley. Tilley is from the southern part of London, and a student at the University of Birmingham. “You you don’t have duvets, you have comforters.”

Larissa Borges, who calls Belam, Brazil, home, is also a Fulbright scholar. She teaches Brazilian Portugese at Birmingham Southern, which differs from the Portugal variant in accent and vocabulary.

“I feel like I am at home,” she said. “They just say hello in the streets. I like this.”

The group stayed busy Tuesday, visiting St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, walking the Edmund Pettus Bridge, listening to author Kathryn Tucker Windham at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library and visiting historical monuments and landmarks in Selma.

“They touched us,” said Borges. “They shared their stories and the history of this place.”

Ledvina was impressed by Selma, and said the group will be back in the future.

“We hope this is not our last trip to Selma,” said Ledvina. “We hope this could be the beginning of a good, long relationship.”