Photo courtesy of: Terrence Berry
Sep 19, 2010
By Megan Helgeson and Monica Chapman
Everyone stared at him as he walked down the streets. It bothered Terrence Berry, a Daley-Cutler Scholar from Asbury Park, N.J. The Ohio University sophomore was a fish out of water for two reasons, and the first did not seem like a cause for people to stare awkwardly.
Berry was in Macedonia, the first time he had been out of the United States. He clearly was a foreigner; however, the real reason people were starring, Berry discovered, was because many Macedonians had never seen an African American before.
So Berry decided to try a different approach.
As the next passerby gawked, Berry broke into a smile and offered a warm “hello.” The man smiled back and, after a brief introduction, asked if he could take a picture with Berry. Feeling like a celebrity, Berry agreed. And so began his first international experience.
The Cutler experience
Berry was in Macedonia this summer as part of his volunteer experience for Ohio University's Manasseh Cutler Scholars Program. He stayed with the family of OHIO’s International Gusterov-Cutler Scholar Elena Mihajlovska, a Macedonia native.
While abroad, both helped build houses with Habitat for Humanity, joined the youth division of the Red Cross and spoke with an English class about their experiences, among other things.
Berry and Mihajlovska are among OHIO’s 28 Cutler Scholars, nine of whom spent the summer volunteering across the globe. Other Cutler volunteer experiences included assisting at the World Cup in South Africa, volunteering at Good Shepherd Orphanage in Ghana and working at a Costa Rican wildlife rescue center.
According to Associate Director of the Cutler Scholars Program Karen Deardorff, the program’s service requirement ties directly to the University’s vision.
“We want our scholars to be responsible citizens – to give back to their communities, to their campus, to the world. We want our scholars to continue with that spirit, to help those who are less fortunate or who need help,” she said.
The volunteer criterion is one of four enrichment experiences required of all Cutler Scholars. The experiences are designed to increase self-understanding, to provide insight into civic responsibility and the free enterprise system, and to immerse scholars in culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse environments. Other requirements include Outward Bound, a management internship and a study/work abroad experience.
Though students are ultimately responsible for setting up their experiences, they receive support through the University, according to Deardorff, who has nicknamed herself the “Enrichment Experience Fairy.”
In addition, scholars embarking on their volunteer experience receive a $3,000 stipend. However modest, Deardorff said the stipend helps scholars go places they might not be able to afford on their own.
“I always tell them if you can dream it, we can probably make it happen,” she said. “A lot of them blaze their own path.”
This past summer marked the first time that a Cutler Scholar traveled to Macedonia. Despite everything Berry accomplished by the end of his stay, he admits the initial notion was no more than friendly banter.
“I would joke around with [Elena] sometimes and say things like, ‘Oh, you’re going home this summer? I’m going to go home with you,’” Berry said.
It wasn’t until Berry ran into Mihajlovska skyping with her parents that they officially invited him to stay with them and he ultimately considered the possibility.
As soon as Berry arrived in Macedonia, however, it was one shock after the next.
First, Berry went through the passport checkpoint and was stopped by airport customs officers because his passport and driver’s license did not look like him – he had lost weight.
“After a while, they finally decided to hand me my IDs back and let me go,” Berry said. “That was kind of a scary experience.”
Other surprises were the Macedonians’ inexperience with African Americans and the lack of English spoken there.
“Being a minority is not a new thing to me so it really doesn’t faze me to be around people of different backgrounds and nationalities,” Berry said. “However, being an American in a country in which English is not the primary language is awe inspiring.”
But, the language barrier did not prevent Berry from meeting people or bonding with Mihajlovska’s family.
“My friends liked [Terrence] a lot,” Mihajlovska said. “He was getting along with my brother a lot – they were playing video games.”
During his stay, Berry became a part of the family – Mihajlovska’s mother called him her other son and Berry even resembled one of Mihajlovska’s family members.
“Elena’s brother Filip had gotten a tan,” Berry said. “So whenever Elena, Filip and I went anywhere together, a recurring joke was that Filip looked more like my brother than hers.”
Mihajlovska did show Berry around her country, from the capital city Skopje to Ohrid, the main tourist destination, among other towns.
“It was thanks to [Elena] that my experience was so good, and to that I am eternally grateful to both her and her family,” Berry said.
“(Berry) was just so much more confident when he returned to campus,” said Deardorff. “There’s something about navigating a foreign country when you don’t speak the language that is such a liberating, life-changing experience. It’s amazing the difference it makes in students’ perspectives.”
Ohio University's Manasseh Cutler Scholars Program offers innovative merit scholarships that support the education of extraordinary young people.
Individual or corporate benefactors privately fund the program, which will support 200 Scholars—50 in each class—when the program is fully operational. The goal is to have at least one Cutler Scholar from each of Ohio’s 88 counties.
Elena Mihajlovska is the fourth Macedonia Cutler Scholar supported by Risto Gusterov. Gusterov was the recipient of an honorary degree from Ohio University during former president Robert Glidden’s tenure.
Terrence Berry is the second Cutler Scholar supported by James Daley. Daley received the OHIO Alumni Association's Distinguished Service Award in 2009.
For more information on giving to the Cutler Scholars program, please contact Director of Development Jennifer Hall at (740) 593-4074 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To give online, please visit www.ohio.edu/give.