MERCED — Vadim Gassiy was in eighth grade when his mother encouraged him to leave Russia for a taste of American life, culture and education.
But the small town of Niceville, Fla., proved too sharp a contrast to Gassiy's big city lifestyle in Saint Petersburg. After one semester in 2004, Gassiy headed home with no plans of returning to the United States.
But today, Gassiy is immersed in life as a student at UC Merced. His decision to give the country another try -- first in Southern California, then Napa -- paved his way to the University of California's 10th campus.
Gassiy, a junior with a management major and political science minor, sees a future of infinite possibilities.
His UC Merced education is one important step.
"I believe it's much better that this school has 5,000 to 6,000 students," Gassiy said. "The professors do help you achieve your goals."
An international student placement agent persuaded Gassiy to return to the United States by assuring him there was more to see.
Gassiy landed in Southern California. He lived with several host families -- including a professional Santa Claus -- and cultivated friendships with other Russians. He adjusted to the California lifestyle and spent time swimming, snowboarding and playing soccer.
After two years in high school, Gassiy moved to Napa. His mother, an honorary lawyer in Russia, thought a smaller community would provide fewer distractions.
Gassiy graduated from Justin-Siena High School in Napa, and thought about European colleges before applying to public and private universities in the United States.
Over time, Gassiy narrowed his options to the University of California system. His first choice was UC Merced, even though he had reservations about the small campus.
"I was not too sure at the beginning," Gassiy said. But he settled into college life and an apartment, which he shares with another Russian student at UC Merced.
Gassiy made friends and learned about Arab, Indian and other cultures through the students he met on campus. He joined several clubs and serves as the chief communications officer for the Business Society.
Small class sizes and the accessibility of professors are definite assets, he said. Gassiy also values the academic foundation and real-life experience many professors bring to the classroom.
"You cannot just be book smart," he said. "You have to know everything else."
Evening for educators
UC Merced will be holding the sixth annual Evening for Educators from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday in the California Room. It will feature an update on campus growth and admissions activities, a meet and greet with UC Merced students and refreshments.
To R.S.V.P., email specialevents@ucmerced. edu or call (209) 228-7787.
Before the event, there will be an optional campus tour at 4:30 p.m.
The event is presented by San Joaquin Valley University of California Alumni Network; Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud and Romo; UC Merced's Enrollment Services and the North Merced Rotary.
UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the University Communications staff. To contact them, email firstname.lastname@example.org.