Jinxiang Ma from China is studying English as a second language at the American Institute of Language and Culture at Pima Community College in Pima, Arizona. She plans to major in Math or Business when she meets the English proficiency requirement.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
Because I think that the environment in the USA is better than my hometown. I also feel that adult education has much more support and services in the United States. I feel very encouraged to study even though I am not the traditional student age.
Why did you choose Pima Community College?
The very affordable cost first caught my attention. I enjoy Tucson, Arizona’s natural landscape and the quiet streets allow me to concentrate and relax.
What do you like best?
I like to learn from my American classmates. I can improve my English and learn more about American culture and how my ideas are different from Americans.
What do you miss most?
I miss my family, food and friends. I can’t wait to have Sichuan Fish and Guangzhou style dishes when I travel home. I miss some of the services offered in large cities such as the subway and density of restaurants near my home.
How has this program helped you to handle future study at a U.S. university?
I have been studying here for three semesters. I feel my listening is better. When I first came here my TOEFL listening score was zero, but now I feel I can understand Americans much better. My teacher, Nancy, has really helped me improve my listening and pronunciation which will help me in the University classroom.
What was your biggest surprise?
I was surprised to learn that each course has a set number of credit hours. Once I realized how many credit hours I needed for the degree, I started to track my progress toward graduation.
... your biggest disappointment?
I don’t like that student apartments have 1-year lease agreements that are complicated to understand. I feel I don’t have the freedom to choose a new place if I don’t like it.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
As long as people speak slowly and use short sentences I can understand very well. But there are times I prefer to have a translator, like the times I visit the doctor because I feel I can explain my situation much better.
I saved money back home for several years, however, I am starting to run low so my sister loaned me some money. I might have to return home to work and save up money again if I am unable to find work here.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
Back home I could ask a question and get an answer very quickly. Here it seems that I spend a lot more time with the teachers and tutors to learn the material. It could be because of my English ability, but I also feel it is a different teaching style. Some subjects like math have very clear right and wrong answers, but other subjects could have multiple correct answers.
What are your activities?
There have been different opportunities to participate in programs, but I feel I need to study instead. When my English improves and I feel more comfortable with my finances, I can relax more and participate in extra activities.
How easy or difficult was making friends?
I am having difficulty making friends in the U.S. I speak with other students and local people in the church, but I don’t feel as close to them as with my friends back home.
How relevant is your U.S. education to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
I hope to get a marketing or management job in the U.S., but I have heard it’s very difficult for international students to get a job in the U.S. If I go back home, I plan to work in marketing or management in Beijing.
What is your advice to other students who are considering a U.S. education?
My advice is for the older people in China who want to go back to school. Be sure you have enough money saved for two to three years. You might think you can finish an ESL program very quickly, but sometimes it takes more time than you originally planned. It’s very good to have a large savings. The U.S. made my dream of going back to school possible.