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Andrew Knight on Attending SEU After Growing Up on the Mission Field

After having spent the majority of his life abroad in Uganda, Andrew Knight (’16) always aspired to return to the States for college. 

Although he and his family are originally from Pennsylvania, Andrew’s parents serve as missionaries in Uganda. His father teaches at the African Bible University, a Bible college in Lubowa, Uganda, which aims to prepare its students for numerous Christian service careers. His mother also works at the university, where she is the Dean of Women, the head of the hospitality committee, and leads a cooking class for students and their spouses. 

On to SEU

To leave the region when it was time for Andrew to begin college would mean leaving his family, friends, and the culture he was accustomed to. Yet, this was a transition Andrew was willing to make. He explains, “Uganda has very few accredited colleges, especially ones that offer a degree in Criminal Justice, which was the degree and career path I was looking for.” This would lead him over 7,000 miles away from home to Lakeland, Florida, where he would double major in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies here at Southeastern University. 

“To start, I was looking for a school in Florida because the climate reminds me of Uganda,” states Andrew. “After searching, I found Southeastern University, which offers the small, private Christian school feel I was used to, coming from the Christian boarding school I attended in Kenya. I wanted to continue to grow in my faith as well as receive a quality education, and it seemed like Southeastern would do both.” 

Although, however willing one is to move across the world, it is impossible to be fully prepared to handle the mental and emotional challenges of adapting to a different culture. Andrew notes how living most of their lives on the mission field in another country causes missionary kids to initially have a hard time adjusting to living in their passport country. 

Recognizing these challenges, Southeastern provides a program for international students (and missionary kids, who often resonate with international students) to assist them with both the legal and personal aspects of being a part of the campus and local community. SEU’s Department of International Student Services & Enrollment (ISSE) hosts various social events and offers students workshops. These include topics such as  obtaining off-campus employment and internships, social security, managing the mental strain of culture shock, filing taxes, obtaining state IDs and driver’s licenses, and staying up-to-date on the legal processes necessary to remain at Southeastern. 

One of the ways the program helps students to cope with being away from their loved ones is by connecting them with professors, alumni, and other students who share in their experiences. 

Andrew reflects, “The international program introduced me to some alumni who not only had been in my situation before, but they also cared that I would be able to be established on my own, teaching me things like how to open a bank account and obtain my driver’s license. Even more importantly, they opened their home to me, which became a place where I could go and feel understood.” 

The university’s professors were also instrumental to Andrew’s experience. He states, “The fact that professors at SEU are interested in developing relationships with their students, and that our community embraces diversity and cultural awareness, made me feel like this new place was less of a foreign country and more like a home.”

Andrew and his wife, Rachel (Galbreath) Knight (’15), now strive to recreate the welcoming and safe conditions Andrew received upon coming to SEU, blessing other missionary kids in the process. 

Mu Kappa International

Part of ISSE’s initiative to support and connect missionary kids is through Mu Kappa International. This organization “exists to encourage missionary kids, multicultural, and international students in their cross-cultural transitions to foster meaningful relationships with God, family, and others.” SEU’s chapter helps to foster a sense of belonging and confidence in navigating a new cultural setting by providing events and resources catered to the needs of missionary kids during their time at SEU. 

Southeastern did not have a Mu Kappa chapter when Andrew was an undergraduate student. However, he has seen the college’s chapter make “great strides in developing a solid Mu Kappa group.” Andrew comments, “I have seen current missionary students who attend Southeastern benefit from this group and the support system it offers, which is why my wife and I are so passionate about doing what we can so that it grows.”

Internships & Advice

Andrew’s success as an undergraduate student led him to an internship with the Assistant State Attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit in Bartow, Florida. As an intern, he gained “hands-on experience researching cases and preparing files for trial and applying what I learned in the classroom to a real-life situation.” He also “developed a close relationship with the Assistant State Attorney, which has given up-close experience and a lifelong mentorship.” His work has prepared him for his roles as a graduate assistant and a member of the American Center for Political Leadership (ACPL)

Considering all the experiences and opportunities he encountered as an undergraduate student, Andrew encourages international students and his fellow missionary kids to “always say yes to new experiences, be open to trying new things and really just get out of your comfort zone,” as this is the perspective that aided him in making friends and adapting more quickly to life in the States. 

Life as a Grad Student

Andrew worked as a graduate assistant for U.S. Congressman Dennis Ross while pursuing an MBA with a concentration in Executive Leadership. Besides the usual GA responsibilities — grading, taking attendance, and filling in when needed — Andrew found himself being “heavily involved in the development of the American Center for Political Leadership.” 

The American Center for Political Leadership, focuses on instilling the importance and practice of cultivating civic engagement, advancing political civility, and defending individual freedoms. As expressed by Dr. Kent Ingle, students who are members of this organization learn how to be a generation that will forever change the nation’s political climate for the better. Andrew’s part in this mission “consisted of leading a study abroad trip to Washington D.C., brainstorming and presenting ideas for the ACPL, and researching ways to make the ACPL even better.” Andrew has taken what he learned in this role and applies it to his work in his current position as a Crime Analyst for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. 

Venturing 7,000 miles across the world, while exceptionally challenging, has allowed Andrew to pursue the criminal justice field, foster lifelong friendships and mentorships, and become directly involved in political affairs. Having been deeply impacted by his experiences at SEU, Andrew now invests in the upcoming generations so they, too, can understand that they belong where God has called them and that they can change the world.

Learn More

BS in Criminal Justice
BS in Legal Studies
BS in Criminal Justice & Legal Studies
BS in Social Work & Criminal Justice
BS in Organizational Leadership & Criminal Justice
MBA Degrees at SEU
American Center for Political Leadership

By Jordan Fleming, Student Writer