Gonzalo Pereira from Guayaquil, Ecuador, is studying Marketing and Management at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I decided to come to the USA because of the opportunities it offers for students and for people in general. It is a culture that I love being part of thanks to the people I have met- not only students, but professors, university staff and the community in general.
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 St. Ambrose for a lot of reasons but being an international student, you are coming kind of blindfolded, since you are just guided by the websites and comments online. Once I started contacting the university staff, I had a better sense of the university. I had the feeling that the University was very welcoming, its reputation across the country was very good, with a good degree once you graduate and the opportunities they give you once you graduate. Location was an important factor for the culture that this area offers. It shows the American culture, but also lets you share your own.
What do you like best about your program or university?
I like the relationship you build with the staff and with other students. Being in small classrooms means students are more involved and engaged in the subject, since the professors are having more time to go through a topic and also know what you are struggling with. When it comes to the students, everyone knows everyone, being that an opportunity to make friends, getting to know other cultures, because St. Ambrose adds an international community, and quality facilities, for academics and sports.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss the food at home, it is just a way to remember where I am from and of course, food brings family together, as my mom says. To be honest, I do have my family miles away, but I stay in contact with them very often thanks to technology. Even though, yes, my family of blood is all the way in Ecuador, I feel that I have met my new family here at St. Ambrose.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
It surprises me how fast things go in terms of life. Everyone is trying to get things done as fast as they can and I enjoy it, but it is a cultural change for me. When it comes to education, the method is different, you are given tasks to complete with deadlines, instead of going day by day.
... your biggest disappointment?
I haven't had a big disappointment, in my personal case, but I would say not being able to play the sport that I love due to very strict requirements inside the team, coming from our coaches. Even though it is my fault, I feel that as my biggest disappointment.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
For me, English has always been in my life, so I never had a big problem with that, maybe some misspelling or grammatical errors once in a while. Since we have a large community of international students, they are more likely to speak their own language between themselves, which is interesting for me, even though I don't understand anything they say.
I manage myself with debit card, putting in money I made back home and money I make here, trying not to spend much on things I probably don't need, but still spending in experiences, which for me are very important.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
It is not that hard to adjust, what is hard is to stay focused and on schedule. Since most professors give you an outline of the course with the deadlines, you won't have that many reminders of the things you have to do, so you have to keep track of those things yourself in order to be on time.
What are your activities? (clubs, sports, student associations, travel, homestay programs, special activities or trips sponsored by your program)
I play soccer for the university, I work in the International Office, and I work for catering service for events in the University. St. Ambrose has so many activities that I can't make every single one, but I try to go as much as possible. Those activities are planned mostly by students, so they actually know what we want to do. Attending other sports games is incredible, we have a marching band that creates a scenario for the game that is unbelievable.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
Making friends in the USA is so easy. The easiest way is to find something in common, for example by attending an event on campus already tells you a lot about someone else. Even if you don't have anything in common, you are more likely going to talk about something and in that way you are still making a friend. You are going to probably see that person again on campus, so that's why making friends here is so easy.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
I want to become a Healthcare Manager in a hospital in the US. Studying in the US gives me an opportunity to look for a job around the area, but if that doesn't work, going back to my country with a degree from the US will mean a lot, since now I acquired knowledge from a developed country and could contribute with new ideas.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering a U.S. education?
I would recommend not to be scared, first of all. Going somewhere without your family could be scary at the beginning, but once you get used to it, you will start to see all the good things and benefits you are getting from it. To finish, I would recommend talking to as many people as you can from the university; students, teachers, managers, alumni, everyone that could give you an insight to life at the university.
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