Daniela Zhao, from São Paulo, Brazil, is studying at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California

Daniela Zhao, from São Paulo, Brazil, is studying at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California

Why did you decide to study in the USA?

I decided to study in the USA because I was unsure about what I wanted to major in. I knew that in the USA I could choose a different major, and try different classes to figure out what I wanted to be. I also came here to pursue a better education. 

Why did you choose Orange Coast College?

I chose Orange Coast College (OCC) because it is one of the best community colleges in Southern California. I didn’t want to enroll in a four-year university after high school because of how expensive they are. In addition, OCC offers a variety of programs and courses, which allows students to explore their interests. 

What do you like best about your college?

I think what I like most about OCC is how welcoming everyone is. OCC is truly like a second family to me. I got a job on campus and I am part of Student Government; all the staff is supportive and help me with anything I need, and I think that is something hard to find in four-year universities or other community colleges. 

What do you miss most about home?

What I miss most about home is the culture, my family and friends, and also the food. I think Brazilians are more outgoing and friendlier than Americans, so I miss that energy sometimes. 

What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?

My biggest surprise was actually the education system. In the USA, the SAT/ACT, personal statements, and extracurricular activities weigh a lot when you apply to a university. In Brazil, we only have to take one standardized test. 

... your biggest disappointment?

The cost of education for sure. We probably pay a lot more than what a domestic student pays for tuition, and we are not allowed to work off campus. 

How have you handled:

... language differences?

Having finished high school in the USA helped me a lot. I don’t think the language differences were an obstacle for me.  

... finances?

I managed to get a job on campus and some scholarships, which helps alleviate some of our financial stress. However, the job and the scholarships are not enough, especially in California where everything is a lot more expensive than other states. 

... adjusting to a different educational system?

I don’t think it was difficult adjusting to a new educational system. And most universities offer workshops that help you understand the educational system better. We also have international counselors to help us. 

What are your activities?

I am part of the Student Government. For the year of 2020-2021, I’ve planned events for our clubs so they can recruit and fundraise for themselves. Next year, I will be overseeing the policies of the campus and making any changes that we feel we need to do. I also work at Global Engagement Center as a student assistant.  

How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?

I think it is difficult to make friends in a classroom setting especially if you are an introvert, which I was. However, after I started working and joined the Student Government, it was easy to make lifelong friends. 

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 get my PhD in Psychology, do research, and hopefully become a teacher in the future. I think that it is important to take care of our mental health and I also want to remove the stigma around mental illnesses, and bring awareness to the problem. 

What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering a U.S. education?

A piece of advice I have for students is planning. Planning is really important, such as knowing in advance where you are going to study, where you are going to live, and your budget for each month. It is important to apply to schools early on so you don’t have any problems applying for a visa and coming to the USA. 

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Daniela Zhao, from São Paulo, Brazil, is studying at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California.

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