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This semester, I am the only international student in majority of my classes. On the first day of class, I was so excited thinking that I was going to make a lot of American friends. However, in the first couple of weeks, things turned out differently than I had expected. Most of the time, I just sat quietly and said nothing in my classes. I felt so speechless and less confident in the classroom. I was worried about how to make friends in this environment. I tried to talk, but everyone already had their friends/partners to talk to. Whenever I look at the people who sat around me, everyone was focused on their phones. Due to this hard conversation, I once misunderstood the class schedule in the first month. People were going to do class observation in an elementary school, but I went to class instead. That was difficult to make it up because there are not that many public transportations that could take me to the school where my friends were, and I couldn’t find anyone to drive me since everyone had their activities to do in the morning. Nevertheless, I did not give up. Confidently, I went to a school near campus, talked to a kind and lovely director, and she allowed me to observe a class (she had to accompany me during the observation hours because it is a confidential school). I was finally able to write my paper and submitted it. Surprisingly, I got 100% for the paper. When I talk with my professor about how I got the chance to observe the class, she was so impressed by what I’ve done and said that I have to get a bonus credit, which is incredible. A small lesson learn from this small story is that be sure to often check class schedule (syllabus) to be on track, and be confident to ask even it seems to be impossible to make it.
To find a solution to build the lack confidence in classes, I talked to some friends (American and international) about what I faced in my first week in classes and I also talked to my professors and advisor about this situation. Everyone was very helpful by giving me ideas how to overcome it. After few weeks in classes, we started to have group discussion. I used the opportunity to talk with my classmates, so I now have the confidence to share my opinions about what is discussed in class even though it is still struggle of making friends from class to hang out with outside class time.
Classes that I am taking this semester are wonderful, especially the ones related to my major. I have learned a lot so far about education, the history of American Education, how it evolved, and a little about school today as well as US education law. I learn and present a presentation comparing and contrasting American education to education from other countries. I get a remarkable chance to go to some schools here in Arkansas to see children learning, classroom management, and students teacher interaction in the classroom. This great opportunity gives me ideas to think more about the education that I have had back in Timor and how to contribute to my future career. I was so surprised when getting in to the classroom that I observed. Obviously, it is totally different to the one I have back home. Technology is everywhere even in the pre-school classroom such as an iPad, camera, projector, etc and children are at school for six hours, which is ridiculous.
When I am at the university, I am able to make a lot of friends especially international ones. They help me a lot such as helping me with what I am struggling in class (Math specifically), cooking for me, going to a supermarket to buy stuff that I need, spending time in my dorm hanging out, and inviting me to stay in their place when I got sick (tooth surgery). These things are very helpful when I have a bad time or homesickness.
With my friends, we are not only spending time helping each other, but we also spend time having fun such as going canoeing, rappelling, attending campus events, hiking, walking in the afternoon, cooking, working out, playing basketball, playing musical instruments, and singing. I also had the opportunity to go to my friend’s high school to see marching band competition, and go to a weeding here in the US. These kinds of activities build a good relationship, and at the same time, I learn about their countries and cultures and share about mine. I enjoy it very much so far, and it makes me feel like home.
I spend time with my friends going to other states for fun such as Missouri (float trip), Oklahoma City (visiting), Dallas, during the labor weekend (watching rodeo, playing rollercoaster and water roller coaster in hurricane Harbor), Texas. I also visited Little Rock, visit state capitol and tour around, President Clinton’s Library, historical place “Little Rock Nine” (Center High School). It was a really good opportunity to explore other places besides Fayetteville and learn about the states and see directly about what is talked inside and outside the classroom.
So far, classes at the university are amazing. I enjoy and learn a lot. I love college life as it gives me a lot of chances to see the diversity of the world. Sometimes, I feel passive since I just do what people say, yet I learn lot in every single hour. I am so glad that I got this place (The University of Arkansas). It is a friendly and peaceful environment to study. By doing all kinds of activities that are mentioned above, I believe I will gain more knowledge and skills and be able to share with others, as I am always willing to share and motivate other people. I hope college life will continue with this fun even though I heard a lot from other people that it is going to be so hard. I guess, the key is be ready, ask questions, and never give up.
My goal for the second year in the US is to build more good relationship with friends, visit some fascinating places, volunteering in some organization to help to do something that is needed and learn at the same time, and the most significant thing is to prioritize my school work and try not to procrastinate. Since it is my first year in college, I want try to make it admirable.