Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I study in the US because I already live here. My mom is a student here and I wanted to start going to school in the U.S. because it is a better opportunity to get an education here than in my country.
Why did you choose this particular college or university? What attracted you about your school? What is special about your school and its location?
I chose Valley because it is more affordable than going to a 4-year college and it is close to home. This place feels familiar to me; my brother also attended Kalamazoo Valley.
I looked at the rating of my professor too; a lot of professors had really good reputations. The professors are very understanding. Also, the counselors are really helpful. The international counselors were very helpful; they made it easy for me and referred me the right people for everything.
What do you like best about your program or university?
I definitely like the resources available best. I was struggling during my first official class for my major. I was unable to understand the material, so I went to the testing center, and they showed me ways to study and focus in class. That is a really good resource. At the testing center, I had someone almost like a friend, a peer, help me to have a learning experience.
Also, counselors, there are walk-in hours where they can help you with classes if you are struggling. If you do need to drop a class or pick one, they can tell you if it is the right choice.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss a lot of things; family first, and second would be the memories. Also, the people we lost while we’ve been here. Holidays are very different [in Libya] than here. Here I don’t have much family, so we don’t have a lot of people around for holidays. We don’t have many traditions here because my family is not here. It is hard to communicate with people in different time zones.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
How good the school system is yet some people here complain about it.
... your biggest disappointment?
Syrian refugees who just came I am disappointed that these people do not get all the support they need. They came to a new country and to learn a new language. I am thankful that when I came, I had an Arabic teacher who taught my brother and I English. Every school should have translators to help.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
When I learned English, it was really hard. It was very awkward at the beginning. People wouldn’t understand that there was a language barrier. You just have to put yourself out there. Meet friends who are willing to help you. There are free classes everywhere to learn English. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and meet friends to learn and practice more. Give it time; you have to actually read books, listen, and speak to real people. You have to practice. Practice makes perfect.
I do not really deal with finances. I am not here alone, and I live with my parents. They are able to support me. Plan for your finances and ask for help from parents or relatives. Put the priority on classes.
At Kalamazoo Valley, there is a helpful program called Payment Planning. You do not have to pay everything at once. They separate the tuition into many parts, so you can wait to pay it.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
There are more resources here than in my country. Take advantage of the teachers and professors assistance: they want to help you. They want you to succeed as much as you can and there is a lot of help that they offer.
The classroom environment is very different. At Kalamazoo Valley, the college has a much different meaning; you have a great relationship with teachers and students. At the Community College, the classes are more personal and smaller. Here there are tests, quizzes, and papers that build you up to a final grade so you can learn better.
What are your activities? (clubs, sports, student associations, travel, homestay programs, special activities or trips sponsored by your program)
I am involved in ROC, and I am a senator at the Western Student Association. I am a WSA representative and the treasurer. I volunteer at Ascension Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo, MI, so I learn what it is like to be a surgeon. I get to see actual procedures and surgeries. These activities made me a more outgoing person.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
In the beginning, it is very difficult because of the language. I meet people at events and also classes. If you have friends in class, you can also get help from them, and you can study together and share information.
Definitely don’t be scared to go to events and put yourself out there. If you are too afraid to go to a place, you won’t make friends. You need to make friends to meet new people.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
Helping people and healing people. I want to be a surgeon, and right now I am working toward my bachelor’s degree. I am hoping then to get a masters degree to get more experience, and then I want to study medicine and get my MD. Then get into residency to become a doctor. After that I am hoping for a fellowship to get a specialty in something specific. I don’t know what type of surgeon I want to be right now.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering a U.S. education?
To be more open-minded. Things at home are different than here. Some things are not talked about at home, that are normal to talk about here. Here it is more about sharing cultures and thoughts. People here will accept you, but you also have to accept them. You don’t want to lose your culture, but you have to be willing to be accepting of everybody.
Respect everyone. Understand that you have your opinion and that you are entitled to your opinion.
What I really love here is the diversity. I love meeting new people who think differently than me. I want to share my experience and ideas, and I want to learn more about their culture. It will help me in the future because I want to be a doctor. I need to know how to communicate with people from many cultures.