From medical school in Albania to an Associate of Science in Accounting at Pellissippi State, Klea Lamallari has learned that unexpected changes can still lead to great things.
While in high school in Albania, Klea had already applied for medical school. Then, during a trip to Knoxville to visit her family, Klea decided to tour a few nearby colleges at the request of her sister.
“My sister, Seta, wanted us to go look at some colleges together, so we decided to visit Pellissippi State,” shares Klea. “It was right before the pandemic, so the campus was full of people. I remember driving by the pond and I fell in love with the college. That was my first perception of America, and I loved it.”
After getting to speak with Pellissippi State’s international admissions advisor, Klea decided to stay and attend college in the States. “That was my sister’s plan all along,” laughs Klea. “I just decided to stay. Everyone was so nice, even from my first time on campus.”
While Klea was excited to get started at Pellissippi State, she had to wait another year until her visa was transferred from a B-2 to an F-1 status, which would allow her to attend college in the United States. During this time, the COVID-19 pandemic began, and Pellissippi State’s campuses closed.
Klea began her college career during the pandemic and took all her classes online. Even though she had to come to campus a few times for certain classes, she recalls that the campus was so empty it felt like a ghost town.
Even though her first semester in college was nothing like what she had anticipated, Klea remained determined to stay in college and see it through.
“I was able to keep going because I just kept looking forward to how it would look eventually,” shares Klea. “I try to enjoy wherever I’m at in life, so I found the good part of it even during the pandemic. Even online classes were different and fun. I enjoyed the experience even though I didn’t get to see a lot of people.”
Eventually campuses reopened and classes began to return to in-person. Klea finally had the chance to get involved around campus, and she quickly jumped into several leadership roles. Klea became director of the Student Activities Board, president of the International Club, a New Student Orientation leader, and a National Society of Leadership and Success inductee.
“As student director of the Student Activities Board, I get to plan and host events for students on campus, which is one of the best things ever!” says Klea. “Because of this job, I’ve been skiing for the first time, and I went to a baseball game for the first time. It’s so much fun. I’ve gotten to know all these people and do all these things to give back to others.”
Klea’s first visit to campus had such a great impact on her that she immediately decided to attend Pellissippi State, Now, Klea leads campus tours for visitors and gets to share that same experience with new and prospective students. As an orientation leader, Klea also coaches freshmen through their first-year experience.
“I’ve had moments where students have been really affected by the help,” she says. “I’ve been able to encourage students who were ready to drop out, and they’ve told me how that support made them want to keep going. It’s good to know that I get to affect other people and help them because that’s the best thing ever. I just want to make sure they succeed.”
After two years of unexpected twists, Klea is graduating from Pellissippi State this May and will transfer to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to continue studying accounting. She hopes to eventually work in forensic accounting, but she’s leaving her options open for travel and other business ventures.
Even though her path through college ended up looking much different from what she had originally thought, Klea found her place at Pellissippi State.