An interview with Meiyun Han, from China, who is studying Nursing at Merritt College located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Merritt College is one of the four Peralta Colleges.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
I always wanted to go college but I didn’t have a chance because right after high school I went to Panama. I chose the U.S. because in Panama I couldn’t go straight through college, but in the U.S. I could.
Why did you choose this particular college?
The Peralta Colleges helped me fulfill my dream of going to college. I first attended Laney College and completed the prerequisites before applying to Merritt College’s Nursing Program.
Also, Ms. Angela Khoo, at the international office, really helped me with choosing the right classes for learning English and preparing for the Nursing Program. It really helped that she speaks Cantonese and the staff speaks different languages.
What is special about the Peralta Colleges is being in the Bay Area. The transit system is really easy to use and you get a bus pass for the semester.
What do you like best?
Staff in the international office is very helpful, as well as the counselors at the college.
What do you miss most?
Family, friends, and the environment is what I miss most.
What was your biggest surprise?
Anyone could go to school. There were students age 18 and 60! Compared to Chinese educational system, you start with your cohort and graduate at the same time.
Here, you set the pace. You can graduate in two years or in five depending on what you decide to do. At first, I really didn’t get that you could start your first two years at a community college and finish your next two years at a university. But many students do this. In China, you can’t go back to school but here, you can go back to school and change your career goal by going to a community college.
How have you handled: ... language differences?
Before attending the Peralta Colleges, I took some language courses that really helped me learn the basics: speaking, writing, reading. I just kept learning and watched American TV shows with subtitles (like Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice!).
I had to bring a voice recorder to one of my classes and listen to the professor’s lecture over and over since my English was limited at this point.
My parents were able to support me financially. I also got lucky with an on-campus job that allowed me to shop at the malls in the Bay area.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
One challenge was the way you register for classes and developing an academic plan. I really didn’t know what to study because I could choose many programs. I met with Angela Khoo about the classes that I could take, and then it became a lot easier for me.
How relevant is your U.S. education to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
When I graduate this May, I want to get a license and apply for OPT [Optional Practical Training]. I will eventually apply for a bachelor degree and then work as a nurse.
What is your advice to other students?
Have a solid English background. If you could afford it, the experience here really opens your views and your mind. Also, try to join activities and clubs on campus.