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International student finds niche
The recent bout of rainy weather that drenched the Golden Isles has made College of Coastal Georgia freshman Maria Trabanino feel right at home.

"I actually like it because that is the way it is in my country," she said with a soft but distinct El Salvadorian accent.

Trabanino, who is from San Salvador, El Salvador, in Central America, is the first to attend the college through the Georgia Rotary Student Program. The program provides a one-year scholarship to international students with the intent of furthering world peace through understanding and education.

For Trabanino, the program was a chance to broaden her educational experience and to improve her English, which is already strong.

She has been encouraged to learn about the culture here and enjoys the friendliness of Southern hospitality.

"Everyone here has been so nice to me," she said. "I went to Target and Walmart, and everyone kept saying hello."

Living away from home and learning to do everything on her own has been somewhat of an adjustment.

"In El Salvador, we used to have maids," she said. "I have had to get used to doing everything myself."

The oldest of three sisters, Trabanino, who is 18, is also having to adjust to living away from her family.

Luckily, though, living on campus at the Lakeside Village residence hall has offered her a family atmosphere that has helped, Trabanino said.

A little bit of homesickness is worth it in exchange for the education she is receiving here, she said.

Trabanino was unhappy during the one semester she spent at college in San Salvador.

She has not declared a major but is considering either business or psychology.

"I came here because I thought I could find a better education than I was getting there," Trabanino said.

That is part of the purpose of the scholarship program, said Bert Guy of the Camden Rotary Club and the program's trustee representing clubs from St. Simons Island, Brunswick and Kings Bay.

"She is a great student," Guy said. "I think she is going to be an asset to this area."

He hopes Trabanino will take her experiences back to her friends and family in El Salvador.

"We want to build goodwill through understanding with the program," Guy said.

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