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Catalina Alupii Jacksonville State University
Sherron Bagley, left, and Catalina Alupii relax in front of the Bagley home in Wellington.Alupii, from Romania, is a scholarship student at Jacksonville State University.Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star WELLINGTON - Romanian teenager Catalina Alupii barely had planted her feet on Calhoun County soil when a bug that knows no international boundaries bit hard, inflicting a robust case of homesickness. As a scholarship student in Jacksonville State University's Clarence W. Daugette Jr. International House program, Alupii will begin classes Sept. 2.The pair offered to steer Alupii around JSU, answer any questions about campus life and help resolve any problems that might arise.Alupii quickly embraced the offer, noting her biggest surprise since arriving is the "friendliness of the people." Sherron Bagley, a nurse in Anniston, met Alupii in October 1999 in Timisoara, Romania, while she and nurse Pam Jackson of Oxford were there to help stock and open a medical missionary clinic they organized from scratch. Their cache of medicines and equipment for the clinic had been seized by the Romanian government.With nothing to do but twiddle her thumbs while a stubborn bureaucracy turned, Bagley visited an orphanage where Alupii lived with two brothers. That chance meeting began a long-distance friendship between Bagley and Alupii.A devout Christian, Bagley believes the government's stall "was God's hand in the matter," bringing her and Alupii together that day almost five years ago. Alupii later told the director of the orphanage "a lot of times" that she wanted to come to the U.S. after high school and attend college.As the wheels of education turned, Alupii finished grade 12 at Timisoara last spring and applied for a student visa to the U.S. at the American Consulate in Bucharest.It was denied.Authorities there said since Alupii was an orphan, she might want to stay in the U.S. after college. "Well, that was it, that was God's will," thought Alupii of the denial June 1.She began looking for higher education choices in Timisoara. Dr. John Ketterer, director of the IH at JSU, sent a letter to the American Embassy in Romania, pointing out that Alupii would be granted a scholarship for a year, plus renewal for another year. Others bombarded the American Consulate in Bucharest on behalf of Alupii.A non-profit organization, House of Hope includes the orphanage where Alupii lived, a kindergarten and primary school and Timisoara Baptist Bible Institute. Kyer's letter informed the consul he guaranteed Alupii a job as a translator at the institute in Timisoara after graduation from JSU.She is fluent in her native tongue, English, and also speaks French and Spanish. Her studies at JSU will concentrate on languages and computers, she said. Kyer's job offer of $300 a month - the Timisoara average is $100, said Alupii - fulfilled the consulate's requirement that the student must come back home to work. The J-1 student, or non-immigrant visa was granted June 22.Someone in Wisconsin paid Alupii's air fare to Atlanta. She is absolutely awed by what has happened. "I don't know if I deserve to have so many people caring about me. After the visa was denied and so many people were sending (supportive) e-mails to the consulate, I couldn't believe that many people could care about me." Day by day she's dealing with the homesickness.But she's not had much success with such Alabama foods as okra and baked beans.She has no fuss with chicken and french fries, though. And one more thing.She's coming to grips with an awakening, that "everybody (here) has a dog."