Brenda Ametepe, from Togo, is a sophomore at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) in Santa Rosa, California

Brenda Ametepe, from Togo, is a sophomore at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) in Santa Rosa, California

Why did you decide to study in the USA?

From all the continents and countries, the US in the one that intrigued me the most when it comes to studies. I chose to study in the US because of the high quality of education, the technological development and the unique opportunities given. 

Why did you choose Santa Rosa Junior College?

Since my early childhood, I have decided to become a medical doctor and I chose to be a bioengineering student to fulfill this goal. SRJC was definitely the place to get started on my college education. I chose it  because of its high transfer rate percentage to universities of the University of California system (UCs), such as UC Berkeley, UC Davis, etc. which are well-known universities for their incredible programs in majors such as mine. Here at SRJC, you have a guarantee to transfer to one of the UCs to pursue your educational plan. The instructors are passionate about their work and you have a great community to support you. There will be always someone to help you strive on an academic and personal level. Its location also makes SRJC special. Santa Rosa is a quiet city, which helps you focus on your studies, but if you want to have some fun, you can easily go to San Francisco. 

What do you like best about your college?

I incontestably like the diversity and the different resources it offers. SRJC tries to represent every student and every cultural background. It provides a wide variety of resources to help you accomplish your goals: grants, food pantries, transportation discount, etc. I also like our green campus. I just love sitting on the grass and reading. 

What do you miss most about home?

I definitely miss spending time with my family and my traditional foods.

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

During my first semester, I was pleasantly surprised at how open-minded everyone in my English and Psychology classrooms was about some subjects. I learned a lot from them, and I discovered how narrow my worldview was. It opened my mind to new possibilities, questioning, and much more. On the other hand, I was unpleasantly surprised by the lack of social interaction in the classroom per se. For most of my classes, once we got into class, everyone just listened to the lecture and once done, everyone went home. If you want to meet new people and make friends, it is mostly through events, clubs… 

... your biggest disappointment?

During my second semester, someone in my Physics class acted in a racist way toward me. We were supposed to work in a laboratory assigned together. Not only did he refuse to work with me and changed partners, but I also heard him question my knowledge because I was black. 

How have you handled:

... language differences?

I joined a club, which helped me improve my speaking skills.  I also improved my listening skills by watching a lot of movies in English without subtitles.

... finances?

I applied for a job on campus which helped me a lot with my basic living expenses. 

... adjusting to a different educational system?

The educational system wasn’t an issue in my case. A college education simply requires more work, so I have a schedule which allows me to study more. 

What are your activities?

I was the vice president of the International Club. In the club we did a lot of activities: potlucks, game nights, movies nights, pumpkin patches, and more. I also participated in a field trip to UC Berkeley. 

How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?

Moderately difficult. I made a lot more non-Americans friends than American 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 am aspiring to go to medical school. The medical field is not developed enough in my home country, so I am excited to bring back some new knowledge to it. 

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

I would advise them to do the necessary research before coming here, to have a smooth start like I did. I would also tell them to be open-minded and to try new things. Most importantly, I would tell them to stay true to themselves and to always remember their purpose. 

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Brenda Ametepe, from Togo, is a sophomore at Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC) in Santa Rosa, California

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