Earl Johnson, an IT major from South Africa, reflects on his own study abroad experience and offers advice to other students on how to make the most of their time abroad. Earl will also be part of an International Education Week panel with other Edmonds Community College students to talk about his experience studying in the United States through the Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) program.
Moving to a foreign country all on your own is a courageous decision. The mere fact that you don’t know anyone one in this country, and that your family and friends aren’t around can either make you or break you. This can be quite intimidating too. Since studying abroad is a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of us, we should embrace it.
At first being so far away from my home in South Africa was challenging for me because I don’t know anyone here and since I’m the only person from my country that has been placed in Lynnwood. I have very close relationships with my family and friends back home. We were in contact on a daily basis and socialized every weekend. When I start missing home I usually just call, text, or Skype with my family and friends back home – that really helps a lot. If they aren’t available then I might watch movies with some friends here or my friends and just chat and have fun. I took this as a challenge that I will overcome. Nothing and no one can take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity away from me. I would like to encourage all international students to have a positive mindset. We all will get homesick from time to time, which is normal but look on the bright side; we are all here for a specific purpose. We are here to expand our knowledge and skills and also to represent our countries.
Avoid sitting in your room most of the time and isolating yourself from others. By doing this you will make yourself feel depressed and it will make your stay here in the United States unpleasant. Stay active and follow a well-balanced diet. Remember that a healthy body equals a healthy and positive mind. When I was back at home my mother cooked every day and cleaned the house, and I seldom helped with household chores. Since moving to the US, I now cook every day, clean my apartment and also do laundry. I’ve never done these things before, but I’m enjoying it. I call my mother regularly to ask her how to prepare certain dishes and so far all of my dishes have turned out well. All of my friends here say I’m a good cook – as the saying good, “practice makes perfect”. I love experimenting when cooking and enjoy attempting to cook many different dishes. I really enjoy cooking pasta because there are so many different dishes you can make. I’ve learned that I have become very independent and I love it. Back home I wasn’t very active, but since I’ve been here I’ve been walking and exercising a lot. I also started attending Zumba classes, which is choreographed by one of my fellow residents in our on-campus residence hall. Everyone seems to think that I’m good at doing Zumba and I’ve been teaching some of the students in the dorm the Zumba choreograph . It is fun and I get a good workout from doing it, which also helped me lose a lot of weight.
I would like to urge all students to participate in as many activities as you possibly can and enjoy it. Make friends, but choose them wisely. Surround yourself with people who will have a positive influence on you. I have become very good friends with most of the NWCCI students and we are always there to support, motivate, and help one another when in need. We all hang out together, go shopping together, and also take trips to the mall and restaurants together. Learn new cultures and share your culture with others. Study hard to obtain good grades. Also get enough rest every day. Learn to prioritize your time so that there is a balance between “business” and “pleasure”.
Explore what this beautiful country has to offer. Some of the NWCCI students and I have taken a few trips to downtown Seattle a few times and also went clubbing there. Seattle is such a beautiful city and there is so much to see and to do there. I’ve also been to Edmonds beach and spent the day there walking through the streets of downtown Edmonds. Many of the activities arranged through the NWCCI program and the ISS office has allowed me to see quite a lot of Washington State. My friendship family also took me on a day trip to see the beautiful mountains and country side. Travel as much as you can. My friends and I intend on taking a trip to Washington DC and New York City for the winter break and I’m really looking forward to this trip. Capture important moments and make memories which will last you a lifetime. Also invest in a good camera. Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity which you’ve been given and don’t have any regrets.
This experience is life changing; it makes you more appreciative of things and teaches you what is important in life. It will help you grow mentally, physically, and emotionally. You will not only learn technical skills, but also skills of life. I’m sure that we will leave the US being different people than we were when we arrived here…and I mean this in a good way.