Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I decided to study in the US because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and experience a new culture. Coming from a relatively small city in Norway, I got tired of doing the same routines and following this “expected path of life.” I have always loved travelling and meeting new people, so I thought: “Why not start over in a brand-new place where nobody knows me?” It was a choice originating from the longing for a fresh start. The reason I chose California in particular is because I was fascinated by how open-minded people seemed. I wanted to be surrounded by positivity and encouragement, so I decided to experience this place for myself, and fell in love.
Why did you choose this particular college or university? What attracted you about your school? Please mention such factors as location, reputation, courses offered. What is special about your school and its location?
When I was doing my research- which lasted for approximately 5 years- I very much focused on factors like courses offered, location, and safety. I wanted to study marketing and communication, and Santa Barbara City College offered a variety of interesting courses in those fields. My favorites so far have been Interpersonal Communication, Public Relations, and Online and Mobile Marketing! The location is rated as one of the best ones in the country; it’s right on the beach, which was a big plus for me. Even after nearly two years here I am stunned every time I walk to class over how beautiful it is. The last thing that brought me here is the safety. SBCC really does a lot to make their students feel safe, and they have security on campus that will follow you home at night if you are walking by yourself. This is such a relief when you are moving to a new country all by yourself.
What do you like best about your program or university?
The thing about SBCC that is so incredible is how dedicated the professors are. I have met so many amazing and caring professors the past two years. It has been an eye opening experience for me. They have sparked my interest in learning and educating myself outside of school, and for that I am forever thankful. My college experience would not be the same without the support and care they have shown me, both academically and personally.
What do you miss most about home?
Whenever I am homesick, the first thing that I miss is my little brother and sister. I make sure to spend a lot of time with them whenever I am home to make up for the events I missed during the school year. However, I try to shift my mindset and look at it as something positive. They are my motivation to do well in school and accomplish great things. I want to be a good role model for them, and I believe following my dream and getting my degree will contribute to that.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
The biggest surprise about the American college culture has been the importance of getting in to the best school when transferring. (When you go from a two-year community college to a four-year university) Back home we do not focus as much on which school we attend, but rather what degree we will earn. Here, it is mostly about prestige and getting into the very best school in your area. For me, this has been an adjustment, because I simply did not care in the beginning, and wanted to settle with the first and best school I found. After a while, I realized that it does matter where you graduate here, and I need to work hard to get into a school that will provide me with the best education possible.
... your biggest disappointment?
My biggest disappointment must be facing the harsh reality that not everyone you meet is supposed to be your friend. I learned the hard way that if your circle of friends does not want the best for you, you should remove yourself from the situation and accept that you might be better on your own. Finding close friends might be harder than you realize, and personally, I don’t think you should settle until you find those who bring out the best qualities in you.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
The language difference has never been a problem for me, because I’ve studied English back home since second grade. However, it did take a lot of practice and positive self-talk to be able to be confident talking to locals. Being an international student, you automatically find yourself surrounded by other international students, which is not the greatest way to practice your English skills. My suggestion is to connect with as many locals as you can on a daily basis and challenge yourself to take small steps every day towards your goal. It has helped me a lot, and it makes it easier to engage in class as well.
Being an international student in general is not easy, because you will not have the same economic freedom as back home living with your parents. However, there are usually resources on campus that you can use for your own benefit. At SBCC you can apply for grants, scholarships, and financial aid, which all help your finances. When I entered my second year here, I decided to get a job to get some work experience, and of course, earn some money. I ended up being hired as the Social Media Marketing Intern of SBCC’s International Office, which was the perfect fit for me taking my interests and my educational path into consideration. It has helped me a lot financially, and it has led me to new friendships and new skills.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
Adjusting to the American educational system was a challenge because they require very specific courses to be able to transfer. For example, in California they have “University of California” schools, such as UCLA and UC Berkeley, but they also have “California State” schools, such as San Diego State University and San Jose State University. When I came here, I had no clue what the difference was, and no idea where I wanted to go next. I was uneducated about the different requirements, which led me to only being able to transfer to California State schools. Therefore, my biggest tip for international students is to do a lot of research even after you get here! Meet with an academic advisor and find out which classes you need to take to be able to transfer.
What are your activities? (clubs, sports, student associations, travel, homestay programs, special activities or trips sponsored by your program)
The last year has been very fun and hectic because I wanted to get more involved in the campus community. This has led me to such great things, and many new friendships. Recently I founded the SBCC Women’s Empowerment Club. We meet every other week, do fundraisers, and volunteer at local nonprofits. Clubs are so fun, and a great way to meet likeminded people. I also decided to join the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, and the Sigma Chi Eta Communication Honor Society, where I am the head of public affairs. I highly suggest joining honor societies because it will give you leadership experience, volunteer opportunities, and it will introduce you to many new people with the same interests.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
Finding friends can be harder than you think moving to a new country. Luckily, Americans are usually super outgoing, and easy to talk to. It just depends on how fast you meet the right people! This is why it is so important to put yourself out there! Go to events, join clubs, and have a positive mindset. You will not establish new friendships by simply sitting in your room. My best advice for finding good friends is to be true to yourself. You do not need to dress or behave a certain way to fit in. Be yourself and approach people with an open mind. You never know when you will find your new best friend.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
My career goal is to start my own company one day, preferably related to communication or marketing. I know that my academic experience and the personal relationships I have formed over the last two years will make a big difference on how I approach that goal. Adapting to a new culture is such a great learning experience, and you discover sides of yourself you didn’t know you had. For instance, I have found that I am capable of planning and leading projects, setting up social events on campus, and connecting likeminded people! It has made me more confident that I am able to make a difference in the local community and that I should keep nurturing my entrepreneurial sides.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering a U.S. education?
If you are considering studying in the US, please do not hesitate. You are your own biggest critic, and I promise you that you can do whatever you set your mind to. It might seem frightening at first, but we are so adaptable. It doesn’t take long to feel at home. For me, this has been a life changing experience, and I am so entirely happy that I decided to study here. I have established lifelong relationships, learned so much about myself, and discovered my path for the future. It was definitely the best decision ever made.