Coming to America ...

By Fabian Okeke, Fisk University 13'

"A Usap students offers some timeless advice to students from all over the world as they prepare to make the incredible journey to seek higher education at various institutions in the US."

After obtaining your visa to study in the United States, you will scream "Yes! Yes! I'm finally going!" The ululation, celebration and euphoria will be too much and it will seem like the person has obtained the greatest lottery in the world. Some weeks later, you bid your family farewell and give your last kisses at the airport. Then you can cruise in the air on what could possibly be your first flight.

"So I am finally in that America I see on TV?" will be many students' thoughts upon their first arrival in the United States. For the new Nigerian, the United States will be ‘Heaven on Earth' because of the tarred roads, nice restaurants, huge buildings, nice toilets, – yes you can even read your books there – superb schools dwelling in the core of technology and also food – chicken will lose its value after you've stayed for two months. If you arrive during the winter in a cold State, the white substance from heaven will make you so excited that you'll want to make everything with snow at the same time. It is true that the United States is a blessed nation with so much technology but you should endeavor to remain focused on your main purpose of coming to obtain quality education.

Walking about the surroundings of your school will connote an ambience of relaxation and easy life but college life involves more diligence and excellent time management. Your first shock in class will be the different grading system which is on a 4.0 scale. Grade A will range from 90 to 100, B from 80 to 89, C from 70 to 79, continuously in that order and the lowest grade is F. Most of your teachers will also use grades like A- and B+. Getting C in about three of your classes could be the beginning of academic crisis for you converting your initial college excitement to perpetual misery even after graduation. Your first problem in college will begin when you start taking your classes for granted. The key solution to any of your academic challenges is to use the office hours of your instructors, read and stay in sync with your classes, study hard and never miss any class!

Meanwhile, college life is more than just academic work. It is one of the best times of your life. It is an excellent time of self-discovery – a time to find out who you truly are – so you should explore a lot! Life outside classroom involves a lot of fun and sports. You can engage in any form of sports depending on your college; you can join different societies and learn something knew; you can make long term friends. Outside your classroom, enjoy yourself in a positive way. Just like any part of the world, there are good companies and bad companies. Never for once assume that you could do something bad with any group and get away with it. You will most likely be caught and the bad record will remain in your (pro)file even after graduation. Indeed, college bestows on you the opportunity to discover more about yourself than just academic work in your Major. It is worthwhile to try positive activities different from your major as that will help you discover more about yourself.

As you interact more with other people including international students like you from different parts of the world, you should make an effort to understand their culture and norms. Assuming that the norms in your country are generally acceptable could actually cause unnecessary enmity and misunderstanding between you and others. For instance, saying "someone is fat" is really an insult to many people in the United States; a boy complementing a fellow boy based on his dressing could be regarded as someone who is a homosexual; many people will talk to you about Africa as if it is a country. These ways of life should not be feared but understood. Make an effort to ask your friends what is acceptable and what is not and share your views with them.

By making an effort to study in a place far away from your fatherland, you have exhibited some form of bravery. But remember that as a foreigner, you represent a lot of people – your family, your friends, your state, your country, West Africa and Africa. No matter how many phone calls and pieces of advice you get from your family and friends, every decision will still be made by you. Of course, you will be the first person to reap the fruits of your labor. It is a tough challenge to go outside your home and still come out top but it is not impossible to make it as an excellent individual. The choice lies in your hands to maximize the opportunity to have a quality education in the United States. Remember whatever is conceivable and feasible is achievable!

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