First international student named NSU Gypsy Days royalty

ABERDEEN, S.D. – When Northern State University revealed the 2017 Gypsy Days royalty last week, the university crowned its first international student as marshal.

Andy Brelu-Brelu is a senior biology major from Mauritius. He was named marshal and Taylor Ellingson, a senior from Stratford, was selected as queen in the Thursday night coronation ceremony in the Johnson Fine Arts Center.

NSU International Student Services Assistant Director Stacey Schmidt said there have only been three international candidates nominated for the royalty court in the past.

Brelu-Brelu is the first to win, and he said it is quite the honor.

“I feel very humbled to be given such an honor to represent my school and my country, Mauritius,” he said. “I'm really excited to be the first international student, and I hope there are more to come in the future. I'm grateful that I was sponsored by the Office of Residence Life and had great support from International Programs.”

He received a good luck charm shortly before coronation from the mother of his girlfriend, Mikki Braun. A few hours before coronation, Braun’s mom, Naomi Johnson Braun, handed him a plastic bag filled with dried flowers. Johnson Braun was the Gypsy Days Queen in 1980 and had kept her coronation flowers.

“She told me that these flowers, from 37 years ago, will give me luck for my coronation ceremony,” Brelu-Brelu said. “I kept the flowers with me during the whole ceremony, and they turned out to be pretty lucky! I am grateful to have a family who cares about me in America, especially when my family is so far in Mauritius.”

Brelu-Brelu had always wanted to attend a university in the United States. He said he chose NSU after Googling affordable schools in the U.S. and finding Northern in a top 5 list. NSU also had his desired major of biology.

He’s been happy with his choice.

“I have had so many opportunities at NSU, such as being part of a fusion jazz band (Jet Lagged), meeting people from all over the world, and making some of my best friends,” he said.

After graduation, Brelu-Brelu plans to attend medical school to become a reconstructive surgeon.

“I would like to help burn victims, people with birth defects, or those suffering from other physical deformities,” he said.

Schmidt said having an international student crowned Gypsy Day marshal is an amazing thing.

“This shows how diverse and accepting NSU is,” she said. “As Andy mentioned sitting at lunch with people from 10 different countries, ‘Where can you do that without leaving the U.S.? At NSU, of course!’ We are so proud of Andy as one of the most genuine, kind people you could ever meet. He is truly deserving – and he gives some awesome haircuts, too!”

Gypsy Day Parade Winners

Gypsy Day Parade float winners were announced Saturday:

Dial a Move – Best Overall Float: Traveling Trophy

International Students Club/Confucius Institute – President’s Award: Best Northern State Entry

CorTrust – Chamber Award: Best Aberdeen Area Business Entry

South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired – Mayor’s Award: Best Aberdeen Community Entry

Primrose Retirement Communities – Northern Pride Award: Best Representation of Theme

Aberdeen BMX/Exchange – Northern Spirit Award: Best Group Participation

Happy Tails Equine & K-9 – Thunder’s Award: Best Animal Entry

Yelduz Shriners – Gypsy Award: Best Vehicle Entry

The parade’s marching band awards were also announced Saturday:

Aberdeen Central: Gold

Holgate/Simmons Middle School: Silver

Langford: Gold

Northwestern: Silver

Leola: Gold

Hoven: Gold

Watertown: Gold

Ipswich: Silver

Edmunds Central: Silver

Aberdeen Roncalli: Gold

Warner: Gold

Sully Buttes: Gold

Redfield: Bronze

Britton-Hecla: Silver

Elkton: Gold

Eureka: Silver

Groton: Gold

Menno: Gold

Milbank: Gold

Outstanding Band Award: Aberdeen Central

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.