Study Abroad Essay Contest 2013

Second Place International Winner
Doan Kim

Everyone has a moment that he or she never forgets. For me, the moment came to me on July 3rd, 2011. It was close to the afternoon. When I was preparing lunch with my dad, my phone was ringing. Without a second thought, I picked up the phone and a lady announced that I had been accepted as a pre-pharmacy guarantee seat student at Wilkes University. When I heard that announcement, I could not say anything immediately because I was too happy to speak. After hanging up the phone, I rushed to my dad and shouted, “I made it!” and my dad and I went to a Chinese buffet to celebrate the day. On July 10th, 2011, I visited Wilkes University to participate in the First-Year Student Summer Orientation. After I arrived, I went to the university gym to start exploring the school where I would now spend my youth with academic activities. This was the starting date of my new journey at Wilkes University.

Studying abroad through Wilkes University provides me with many advantages. If I list all the advantages I have had from studying abroad, I would not be able to write it all down. Therefore, what I tell you in this paper are only small parts of entire advantages I could have. Before I came to the United Sates, I had English classes for the whole of my middle and high school years in my country. After I came to America however, whenever anyone asked me something, I could not answer his or her questions because I did not understand what they were saying. I would know what they said if they wrote down a question but, the American people’s accents and pronunciations are quite different than from I had what listened to in my country. Honestly, for the first year, I only said, “Yes” and pretended I knew what was being said if somebody asked me something. I did not say, “Pardon me?” or “Excuse me?” because I was afraid people would make fun of my English speaking level. However, as time went on, I have learned that many people are kind and understandable to foreigners. Because of these people, I can have confidence and do not hesitate when I ask for words to be repeated. This confidence accelerated my learning process and now I can have better communication with Americans than I could before.

Another advantage I had from studying abroad is learning new studying styles. My country’s education system is focused on memorization. In contrast to my country, America’s education system is focused on critical thinking. Therefore, during the first couple years, I could not have done well in school. However, as time passed, I began to know how to apply critical thinking when studying. Actually, I am still stronger at memorizing than having a critical thinking. However, knowing how to apply critical thinking is a great learning experience for me in life.

Knowing and understanding other cultures and people are also great advantage I could have. At Wilkes University, I have many opportunities to communicate with different races. Through communicating with them, I could indirectly travel to many countries by knowing their cultures and thinking. Some conversations corrected my misunderstanding on several countries and led me to the right view of them. Now, when I get back to my country, I will be able to go to people who misunderstand some cultures and let them know the truth. This is great because it somewhat means I can be an unofficial diplomatic officer and contribute a relationship between my people and my friends’ people. It is something I am very excited about!

Studying in college is not easy for all students. Of course, studying in college is even harder for people who have English as a second language. However, we all know that it is not impossible. Fortunately for those who are studying abroad at Wilkes University, many faculty, staff and students are willing to understand and help their foreign neighbors. I have never been sent away from professors or other people when I go to ask for help. Currently, I am the one who is getting help from others but, I do believe that if I keep working hard, I can be the person who can help others. I also believe that this is the best way I can pay back the people who have helped me.
Third Place International Winner
Ahmed Allam

Before I ultimately decided to complete my education in the United States, I was working and I had got to choose between two critical decisions for my upcoming future: either accepting a job offer in an outstanding company with a higher career level, or taking the opportunity of study abroad. What I did literally was drawing a scale of the potential pros and cons of the two options, and I found out that study abroad had outweighed. Anyhow, in Arabic culture we have an expression says: “Travel has seven benefits” and ironically it is quite applied on my personal experience of study abroad!

I firstly managed to breakdown the psychological barriers to the vague and far country; USA. I was afraid of the long distance, and pictures of skyscrapers were scaring me. I used to imagine that United States is monster while skyscrapers are claws that surround everywhere. Most of my knowledge about the United States was derived from Hollywood movies. Indeed, it’s totally different to build up your convictions of somewhere from a real experience, or as it’s said in the Arabic idiom for such situations: “to glean water from its source”.

Secondly, before coming here, I was worried about difficulties of living a new lifestyle with different tradition, language, and system. And when I arrived, my worries had been actually confirmed! Nevertheless, overcoming these difficulties has improved my personality and added to my experience. I have gotten more matured, independent, and responsible. Now, I can confidently say to myself: “if you could do it here, you could do it anywhere”.

Thirdly, I have discovered that people themselves are similar despite all of linguistic, cultural, and religious differences. Since I spent some time in English schools and I have gotten known students from various countries, as well as Americans, I have could touch the similarities in people behavior, tastes, mentalities and psyches. I have come up with a vision prospects that it could and should be possible to live and interact with each other easily and peacefully.

Fourthly, my patriotism sense has evolved and my view to my homeland has gotten better than it was before. To illustrate that, by looking at the empty half of cup you may get bored of what surrounds you, and get dissatisfied of what you own. Consequently, you strongly want to run away from what you think is frustrating. Afterward, once I left home, I experienced homesickness as I missed my family, friends, house, and the whole lifestyle. On the other hand, I have not experienced the perfectness that I expected in the first world. People here like anywhere else have also their dissatisfactions in some aspects. Then, I have started to see the filled half of cup too.

Fifthly, it couldn’t be believed that I have become more open with people from my country as well! To explain that, I almost had no relations with people who are not come from my city. My country, as a vast land, has different accents and traditions. Therefore, it was not easy for me to make friends or relations from another city. After coming here, I have got known people from different regions and cities of my homeland which was difficult to do so when I was in my country.

Sixthly, I have gained perception of the host country culture. For example, before coming here I did not have a clue about special events of American culture such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Columbus Day, and Martin Luther King Day. I also lived the experience of presidential elections. In the last elections, for instance, I could watch live TV programs, and talk with neighbors, teachers, classmates, and taxi drivers about the election. I could directly ask them: Who would you vote to? Why? What are your vision, hope, and concerns? It was an actual knowledge I accomplished where my resources come from the heart of event and from citizens and voters themselves.

Seventhly, my English has gotten better since my speaking and listening skills have improved. I learnt many idioms, expressions, and slangs, and I believe if I did not study abroad, I would not learn them ever.

In conclusion, it has been a valuable experience from its outer scope to discover a different and new world, yet deeply it has been an inspiring journey to discover myself and the genuineness of the world! I finally ask myself what if I could bring what is the best of here and apply it over there.

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