A Heart Split Between Two Continents
PROVO, Utah – Sep 29, 2020 – When she was seventeen years old, Lisbeth Hopper, a native of Denmark, immigrated to the United States to pursue better opportunities for education. While en route to the United States, Hopper’s plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Ireland. She spent the night alone in a hotel waiting for her new connection the next day. Despite the slightly chaotic journey, Hopper felt a mixture of excitement, nervousness, and hope as she entered this new chapter of her life.
Today, Hopper often recalls those feelings and loves connecting with international students as they make similar transitions into their education. She has many opportunities to make those connections as the business manager for the Whitmore Global Business Center (GBC).
Among her other responsibilities, Hopper is the administrator for the Cardon International Scholarship (CIS) program, which helps international students and their families come to BYU Marriott to earn an MBA. “I’m sort of the students’ mom away from home,” Hopper says. “I help them deal with finances, but I’m also just there for them when they need me.”
Interacting with these students is often a humbling experience for Hopper. “One memory that brings tears to my eyes involved a family from Africa,” she says. “After I told them how much money they would have every month for rent and food, the mom looked at me and said, ‘What do I do with all the money that’s left over at the end of the month? Do I give it back to you?’ That shocked me.
“I realized she came from a background where money and food are scarce, so the allowance I offered seemed like a phenomenal amount,” Hopper continues. “She later invited me to their home for dinner, and we had a delicious corn mush meal unique to the family’s country. The experience was so touching, and it made me realize how grateful I should be.”
After graduating in 1996 with her MBA from Regis University located in Colorado, Hopper held many positions in banking. First, she was the vice president of FirstBank in Castlerock, Colorado, and then she later became a vice president and relationship manager for Wells Fargo Commercial Banking Group in Salt Lake City. She also taught at Colorado high schools on a volunteer basis, helping with classroom instruction and curriculum development.
In her current role at GBC, she utilizes experiences from both areas of education and business to teach one of the four sections of the CIS class, American Business Culture. Teaching the class is yet another way she bonds with the international students due to their similar backgrounds. “I know the students recognize that I understand how hard it is to come from the outside and learn how to adapt to new things,” she says. “Professionally, academically, and personally, I feel like my whole life has been in preparation for this particular job.”
Hopper asserts that all international students share a unique understanding with one another. “When I was in college, I was assigned to write a paper about a subculture, and I chose to write about immigrants,” Hopper says. “My professor asked, ‘How can you have something in common with someone from Vietnam or Spain or Germany when you are from Denmark?’ He didn’t get it. We are all non-Americans. That's what we share. We’re trying to adapt to being American, so there's a special bond.”
She believes that many international students come to BYU Marriott seeking invaluable educational and life opportunities, as she once did. “Both in the United States and at BYU Marriott, even if you fail, you are free to try again until you succeed,” she says. “Our international students recognize that, and that’s why they love to come here.”
In addition to serving BYU Marriott students, Hopper enjoys being near her son and grandchildren who also live in Utah. “My family is one of the main reasons I am still here,” she says. “One of my favorite things to do is spend time with my five grandchildren, granddaughter-in-law, and great grandson. They are the light of my life.” As each of her grandchildren have turned twelve, she has taken them on a trip back to Denmark. “I love for them to see where I come from and learn about my culture.”
Despite being far from her home country, Hopper finds ways to incorporate her love of Denmark and the Danish language both at BYU Marriott and in her hobbies. One way she does this is by participating in family history.
“I am an avid family history researcher; it’s one of my favorite hobbies,” she says. “I spent six years at the Harold B. Lee Library as a service missionary on Saturdays. Utah was settled mainly by people from Scandinavian countries, and many people came in with records and letters written in Danish. I translated their records and helped them find their family members from Denmark, which was extremely gratifying.”
Although it hasn’t always been an easy journey, Hopper is grateful she chose to come to the United States. “When you immigrate, your heart is always split between two continents, but I find ways to reconcile that,” she says. “I’ve been so blessed to have life-changing experiences since coming to the United States, and working with international students at BYU Marriott is an opportunity I will always cherish.”
Media Contact: Chad Little (801) 422-1512
Writer: Sarah Calvert