Zury Marin can cram for a statistics quiz with a Brazilian, gather with Korean friends to finish a history project, meet some Italians for lunch and study the Book of Revelation with fellow institute students from Ghana all without leaving the tiny LDS Business College campus.
Indeed, the Church-owned school in downtown Salt Lake City could pass as mini-United Nations. Yet Zury and others say LDS Business College offers more than simply an international experience.
"The school is like a second home," said Zury, a native of Cali, Colombia, and the college's international student body president. "Here we have devotionals, we pray before classes and the environment is good. All of these things help our testimony; it's a spiritual place."
LDS Business College has become almost synonymous with its global, LDS enrollment. Currently, there are 181 international students representing 20 percent of the school's total student body. Those students come from 43 countries touching all latitudes. Walk into any classroom and you may find a Mexican sharing a study table with a Bulgarian, a Jamaican with a Mongolian.
"This campus is a small town right in the middle of Salt Lake City," said Craig V. Nelson, director of college relations. "Here we hope to combine professional experiences with spiritual experiences."
The Church founded the college in 1886 to educate and prepare LDS people for the business world. In recent years, it has become a magnet for young men and women seeking job training in fields ranging from the computer industry to medicine and interior design.
Besides being an academic institution, many LDS Business College students foreign and domestic call their school a spiritual haven. Students agree to live by an honor code that encourages modest dress, clean living, honesty and abstention from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea and illegal drugs.
There are frequent devotionals and LDS senior service missionaries are enlisted to help tutor students with homework and English skills. Men and women from all backgrounds also participate in the two on-campus wards.
"The bishops here are great, they are responsible and do anything they can to help you with your educational experience at the school," said Johnny Oh, a South Korean student.
While a fifth of the school's students are from outside the United States, Brother Nelson said LDS Business College does not budget a dime for international recruiting. Most international students learn of the school through word-of-mouth recommendations.
Students from foreign countries often enroll at the college because they are drawn to the small, LDS school that offers a great financial bargain. (LDS international students currently pay $1,200 for 15 semester credit hours at LDS Business College. A similar class load at the nearby University of Utah would cost $4,414.)
After finishing a full-time mission in New York, Johnny Oh said he was looking for a school that offered an LDS atmosphere and tight interaction between students and teachers. The average class at LDS Business College has about 18 students.
"The faculty here is attentive, and it's hard to get lost," he said.
Daniela Ruffino of Sao Paulo, Brazil, said her teachers know when she misses class.
"The college feels like a big house, it feels like a big family," she said.
The college's diverse community is a boon to both domestic and foreign students. To succeed, all must work shoulder to shoulder with folks from varied backgrounds.
"Our students learn to interact with different cultures and people from all walks of life," Brother Nelson said. "Much of our curriculum is based on teamwork. Students learn to work with others who are different in some way. That amplifies their educational experience."
Some admit the college is not perfect. Administrators, teachers and students sometime have to deal with issues common to all centers of higher-learning. LDS Business College is not for everyone, Brother Nelson said. Some students' needs are better served at a four-year university.
"But for others, we are the best," he said.
Wahpy Ntuge Macias, a female student from Equatorial Guinea, attended another Utah college but felt comfortable only when she was in institute class. She transferred to LDS Business College and found a "home" where she could speak freely about the gospel and find lifelong friends.
"Even the people here who are not Church members can feel the warmth of the school," she said.
Brother Nelson has watched several students blossom at LDS Business College. It is exciting, he said, to watch timid, uncertain young people enter the school, get involved, work hard and ultimately leave with confidence and a marketable education.
Many future LDS Business College graduates come from developing countries where skilled employees are sorely need. School officials encourage them to seek opportunities in their native lands.
"Our hope would be that they would return home," Brother Nelson said.
Perhaps LDS Business College is emblematic of the growing Church it represents a singular, solid body built from myriad parts.
"The Church is the greatest example of what diversity really means: many faces, many cultures, one voice," Brother Nelson said.
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