Sunny deu'Valentine Paulson De'Vries from Sweden is studying at Santa Barbara City College and is double majoring in business and economics

Sunny deu'Valentine Paulson De'Vries from Sweden is studying at Santa Barbara City College and is double majoring in business and economics

Why did you decide to study in the USA?

I decided to study in the U.S because I wanted the experience of a different culture and approach towards education. My ancestors migrated to the U.S. from Sweden and Norway a few generations ago. My mother actually moved from California to Sweden in her twenties to explore our family connections, and remained there. Now that I’m in my early twenties, I’ve moved from Sweden to California to explore my family connections here. I think I’ll remain here. I had been told that U.S. universities offer excellent support facilities, and other student resources, which is what initially prompted my decision to study abroad. I also wanted to challenge myself academically, which I believed moving to the U.S. would do!

Why did you choose this particular college or university? What attracted you about your school? 

Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) initially caught my attention with its amazing student resources. As a business major, and someone who’s been innovative since birth, I was especially attracted to SBCC because of its Scheinfield Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation. The center offers various classes in entrepreneurship, such as the Enterprise Launch class. This class is designed for students to launch their own product or service, or to work on an existing business idea. This was perfect for me as I want to start a business of my own. I also choose SBCC because of its great variety of classes. Not only does it have the required business classes that I need in order to transfer, such as introduction to business, business law, and accounting, but it also offers a great deal of other classes too. Ethics, psychology, and real estate were a few classes that caught my attention. I can’t mention choosing Santa Barbara City College without mentioning how amazing its location is! I knew that I wanted to be in a city that is peaceful enough so that I could focus my attention towards school. But, I also wanted a city that is stimulating enough for a social life. Located on top of a hill, right next to the beach, SBCC offers amazing views. Former President Barack Obama even interrupted his own speech to recognise the beautiful campus during his visit. I’m very happy with my decision of choosing Santa Barbara City College!

What do you like best about your program or university?

What I love the most about SBCC is its faculty and staff members. I’ve never encountered as passionate, wonderful, and amazing professors as I have here. During my first semester, I was fortunate enough to take a math class with Professor Bronwen Moore. I was very nervous about taking math, as I had previously found it rather difficult and would often only pass the class. I was even more nervous about taking it in a language that isn’t native to me. However, Professor Moore not only supported me and the other students immensely, but she made me understand math from a whole new point of view. She gave me insightful ways to think about math, and instead of being afraid of it, I fell in love with it. After having this kind of epiphany, I’ve been fortunate enough to share my love of math with others through my work as a math tutor. I never in a million years believed that I would transition from previously struggling with math, to being a math tutor with solid As. This is why I love Santa Barbara City College. Each professor I’ve had, has in some way shaped my way of thinking, and given me the most powerful tool of all: knowledge!

What do you miss most about home?

The most difficult thing about being away from home is being away from family. I miss my mother terribly, but I’m lucky to be living in an era where technology allows me to communicate with her on a daily basis. I’m also very lucky to have found a family in the friendships I’ve made over the past two years with other students. For me, “home” has in a way transformed into being anywhere there’s people that I love and care for. For example, “home” is back in Sweden where my family lives, but home is also much closer than that — in San Francisco where my very good friend, Haley Kittleson, moved to after her time at SBCC.

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

My biggest surprise was how helpful and kind towards strangers people are in California, both at school and in my local community. Complete strangers offered me and my friend their guesthouse when we were road-tripping across California last summer. I’ve been offered a lift home from the grocery store when I’ve bought too many groceries to carry. I’ve encountered professors who go above and beyond to explain a difficult concept. I’ve received simple and friendly “hellos” from strangers walking on the streets. I was surprised by how much more outwardly kind and friendly people are here.

...your biggest disappointment?

My biggest disappointment is not taking advantage of the student resources right from the very start. It took me a semester to truly realise how valuable they are for my education and personal growth. Another disappointment has been not challenging myself to get to know more people at first. Throughout my semesters at SBCC, I’ve come to know that all students are trying to find their way, and I wish I would have worked a little bit harder in making friendly connections.

How have you handled:

... language differences?

Speaking English came easy to me at first. However, communicating using English proved to be a completely different story. I realised that I spoke English well, but I wasn’t super confident in communicating with the language because I didn’t fully understand the culture behind it. In other words, I hadn’t learned how to use American-English in an expressive way. I handled this by simply exposing myself to others more, by making sure that I was properly understood when I had a sense I might have been misunderstood, and asked the meaning of words if a word I didn’t understand came up during conversations. Eventually, communicating in English came more naturally to me.


I’m fortunate to be receiving my primary financing through my home country. Sweden provides me with financial aid and student loans that I use to fund my education in the United States. I’ve also made use of the amazing resources that SBCC offers to its students. One of them is utilising the “food pantry” at school, which gives out free food to students. Another is through the various jobs I’ve had at my college. I’ve worked as a math tutor for various classes and as a teacher’s assistant. Yet another experience I’m very grateful for! I’ve also been very fortunate to receive grants and scholarships from the International office of my school, which has allowed me to continue my second year at SBCC.

...adjusting to a different educational system?

At first, as with anything else that’s new, it takes some time to adapt and find your way. This was particularly true for me as a student coming from abroad. Luckily, my college, and I’d say most colleges in the U.S. have resources to help students with this transition and adjustment. I’ve received support from my assigned academic counsellor, Jamie Griggs, that has helped me understand how the education system is not only built, but also how to find a university that’s right for me when the day arrives for me to transfer. I’ve also had much support from student ambassadors at my college. Being students, they’ve all been in my position and could therefore offer me great advice and guidance. It’s also been very useful to establish a good relationship with my professors. Going to their office hours has been very rewarding towards my adjustment, as they have provided guidance and advice from a professor’s perspective.

What are your activities? 

If there is one thing I absolutely love about SBCC, it is the community on campus. I really want to cherish my time at SBCC, and have therefore made efforts to get evolved with my campus as much as possible. For example, I’ve completed the Student Ambassador Program where I not only met amazing students who all value the diversity that students from all over the U.S. and the world bring to campus, but I’ve also become an ambassador for the school myself. I’ve had a two-year long internship at the American Scandinavian Foundation of Santa Barbara, which has allowed me to engage with my local community. I’ve participated in a leadership role as Vice President of Service of the chapter Beta Gamma Upsilon at the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. I’m a participant of the Honors Program, which has allowed me to meet like-minded students and to take more rigorous coursework. Together with these organisations, I’ve gone bowling, ice-skating, whale-watching on a sailboat, hiking in the mountains, and on day trips to Los Angeles, I’ve volunteered at my local homeless shelter, and so much more! There are so many opportunities at SBCC, whether they are academic or not, and they’re there waiting for students to grab!

How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?

It’s only as easy or difficult as you make it. People here tend to be very friendly and outgoing, and it’s usually appreciated by others when one makes an effort to make friends. Just imagine if someone asked you to grab coffee! You’d probably feel complimented and excited! It can be frightening at first, I sure thought it was, but asking others to hangout at the beach, to study together, or whatever your interest is, is the right step in making new friends. Those that aren’t interested, they’re simply not friends you’re meant to have, and that’s okay. However, those that are interested, might become long-lasting friends! My biggest advice is therefore to challenge yourself by reaching out to as many people as possible, and having an open mind to all that life can offer if you’re willing to do some of the work yourself. This can be very challenging at first, so taking baby-steps can be useful, and eventually you’ll be surprised over how much you’ve grown.

What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?

This is always a difficult question for me to answer as I’m interested and passionate about so many different things. I've been tempted to change my major after almost every class I've taken because I can see myself doing, and loving, almost anything. I can see myself as a real estate agent because I enjoy working independently, as much as I enjoy working with others. I want to start a jewellery company, because I love being creative and design, and anything that sparkles (!!). I can see myself being a psychologist because I love finding ways to help the people that lean on me for advice and support. I can see myself as a financial advisor to a large cooperation because I love coming up with solutions, and I love economics. I can also see myself as a lawyer because I enjoy learning about laws, and I want to bring justice into people's lives. I can even see myself entering politics to change those laws and regulations that I don't like, in order to make our communities a better place for everyone. Luckily, I’ve found that business is the perfect major for me to make most of this a reality. As a business owner, I can change people's lives by donating profits to various nonprofits or even create one of my own. I get to be a psychologist in a sense by caring about my employees. I get to be creative when designing new products. By starting my own business, I’d be able to accomplish a career goal of mine while making our world a little bit better, one day at a time, and one business at a time.

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

My advice is to not be afraid. You will be challenged in so many good ways, and it will only make you such a different person. You might not notice it yourself, but your friends and family back home will see how much you’ve grown! I would also give the advice to take a chance! In the U.S., failing is okay! That’s how we grow as individuals. So grab every opportunity that you can, including the opportunity of studying in the U.S., even if it’s only for one semester!

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Sunny deu'Valentine Paulson De'Vries from Sweden is studying at Santa Barbara City College and is double majoring in business and economics.

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