Northwest Community College Initiative participants undergo a number of professional and personal transformations during their time in the United States. In this post, Ana Kelli Albano of Brazil, reflects on the personal qualities that she has developed through her new experiences as a Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) student. She recommends that future students consider how taking risks with new activities can help them develop new skills and meet more people.
Proactive, engaged, leader, determined, eager, creative…these were all the words I heard before coming to the United States from previous international students. During our conversations, they shared with me the typical profile of an international student and how people expect them to be. As a good listener, I thought a lot about which skills I would need to develop during the program to live up to those high expectations.
And then, finally the program started. As expected, I was learning more about my major, more English, more about other cultures and the different aspects of American society. I am normally a quiet and reserved person, but I wanted to be out of my comfort zone. I felt that I could start to do something beyond the program requirements that would challenge me.
I thought about things that I had never done and could make me feel uncomfortable. One of my friends was studying photography and needed someone to model for him in order to complete his assignment. Since we had a pretty similar schedule, he invited me to help him. Although my first answer was ‘yes’, in my mind I was not confident enough to do it. Little by little, he taught me some techniques and we could see the improvements day by day. I was really happy to be doing something new that also helped me to develop new skills.
After being successful at modeling and enjoying this area “outside of my comfort zone”, I asked myself, why not try something different? Music is something that I really enjoy and I love listening to people singing, but I could never see myself doing it. Then, I registered for a voice class with the music department on campus, which was a little bit scary in the beginning, but it is teaching me much more than singing techniques. Through performing in front of others, taking risks, and challenging myself, I have become more confident.
One thing I would add to the profile of a successful international student is risk-taking. Being out of my comfort of zone allowed me to meet the expectations that were described by former students (proactive, engaged, leader, determined, eager, creative…). I talked to more people, visited more places, made more friends and definitely learned more.
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.