Johannes Malebana, a business major from South Africa studying at Whatcom Community College, shares his reflections on the first month of the NWCCI program.
My name is Johannes. I’m from South Africa, and I go to Whatcom Community College. The 13th of August will go down memory lane as one of the greatest moments of my life. On the afternoon of the 13th, my family and my closest friends accompanied me to OR Tambo International Airport, in Johannesburg; I was going to fly for the first time. I could tell how proud my parents were by just looking at them. Where I come from education equates success, and depending on where you “acquired” your success, the more the youth will look up to you. It has always been my dream to come to the US, but being an example in my community tops my list. Like most kids, I was brought up in a rather normal way. I was brought up by my community; as a result, it is close to my heart.
I don’t have a role model in my community because education is not as important to most of the young adults in South Africa. I want that to change with me. I want people to look at me and say ‘I want to be like Johannes or even better’. I want to change people’s lives by changing my own.
I remember when I boarded the plane for the first time like it was yesterday. I acted as though I was flying for the eighth time. I sat down and remained cool until it was time to take off. I started panicking and then it hit me; I was flying for the eighth time now, I should relax. I thought I had everything figured out because I watched American movies, until the security guard at Atlanta Airport asked if I was an American citizen or I was visiting. I said “pardon” three times and did the same to the cashier in the coffee shop; their English was so fluent, it sounded like Chinese. The trip was very long and tiring. After 16 hours of flying, I reached my destination. I am based in Bellingham, Washington now. The friendliest and sweetest people are found here.
I have been here for a month now and each day has been a lesson on its own. I can feel my level of confidence growing each day. I go to bed every night having learned a thing or two. Being away from home, friends and family can be a challenge at times, but the support system has been amazing. My host and friendship family, the college staff, and the other 13 international students on the program have become my second family now. No words can express my appreciation for they are among the nicest people I have ever met. Iris Metzgen-Ohlswager, the CCI program coordinator at Whatcom Community College, always says “keep an open mind”. If you want something to work out, you have to accept the process.
If I was to read this in a years’ time, this is a message I would have for my future self: I hope you have changed for the better. I don’t expect you to have a nice a car or to be an executive of Apple, but I expect you to be wiser, stronger and more than confident.
A week never goes by without me saying, “My name is Johannes from Johannesburg. I come from South Africa, the golden heartbeat of Africa. A place where dreams come true and goals are achieved”.