By Samantha Guzman
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
It has always been a dream of mine to study in the USA. I remember growing up I would always beg my parents to move here. I grew up visiting at least once a year and loving the culture. My favorite TV shows, movies, and music have always been from the U.S.
How did you choose your intensive English program?
I first went to Triton College in the Chicago area. When my two years there were coming to an end, I was looking for a good accounting school to transfer to. The University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”) is a Top 10 Accounting School and has a great social scene. Additionally, since it was an SEC and top Greek school, I knew I would have a lot of fun. Interestingly enough, I had never been to the South before so it was very scary, but undeniably fun. They call Oxford, Mississippi, the “velvet ditch” and this is the best way I can describe this place: A comfortable place that’s hard to leave. That’s why I decided to stay for my master’s degree.
What do you like best about studying here?
I love Southern hospitality and school pride. You will never find a more dedicated and passionate fanbase. The student body is also extremely ambitious which pushes you to work harder. I like the Southern accent and how people use “ma’am” and “y’all.”
What do you miss most about home?
I miss the food a lot. I’m not a huge fan of fried food and sweet tea which makes up the majority of the Southern diet. I also miss the sense of community in Honduras. Americans are extremely independent, which can make one get really lonely if you’re not raised with that mentality.
How long have you been studying here? How has your English improved? How has this program helped you to handle future study at a U.S. university?
I’ve been studying in the USA for 5 years. I had virtually no accent before moving here, but it has definitely improved. I also learned sayings and phrases like when you “play hooky.”
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
I was very surprised to find out I had a very good education back in Honduras. I never felt behind education-wise, and in fact, performed really well considering I was in a very competitive accounting program. When I got my undergraduate degree we were the #7 best accounting school in the nation.
... your biggest disappointment?
I was very disappointed to find out all the obstacles international students have that prevent us from succeeding. From lack of resources to the difficulties of navigating immigration restrictions, doing very ordinary things was extremely difficult. Things such as getting a license or a job were very challenging and time consuming. Or not being able to vote in elections even though we pay taxes, and the elected officials hold our lives in their hands.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
I was very fortunate to never have experienced a language barrier. Very few people have noticed an accent when I speak. Everyone is always really surprised when they find out I’m foreign and that I only moved to the US when I was 18 years old.
Managing finances was one of the most challenging aspects of studying in the USA. International students don’t receive financial aid, and the scholarships we qualify for are very scarce. I was very fortunate to receive some scholarships for my undergraduate studies and a full scholarship and stipend for my graduate studies. My parents helped with my education, but when it came to a lot of my personal expenses, I had to work to make ends meet.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
I went to a private, bilingual school with an American standard–based education. I learned practically the same things as my classmates in college. The one thing that I always struggled with was standardized testing, and more specifically, multiple choice questions in general. My tests in Honduras were typically more analytical in nature. We never learned the tricks, such as the process of elimination, that can help take standardized tests.
What are your activities?
I was very involved at both Triton College and Ole Miss. I loved being involved and meeting people through clubs/organizations.
Triton College: Soccer team, Accounting Club President, Model United Nations Delegate, Phi Theta Kappa Vice President of Fellowship, Latino Club Treasurer, Bible Club Treasurer, and Triton College Student Association Senator.
Ole Miss: Alpha Phi sorority, The Big Event Executive Board - Finance & Fundraising, Beta Alpha Psi member, Associated Student Body - Transfer Board, and Transfer Leadership Organization.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
I never had problems making friends as long as I was being proactive about it. I always tried to get involved on campus, talk to people in my classes, and go out in the town. Joining the soccer team helped a lot at Triton, and joining a sorority helped a lot at Ole Miss. It’s all about putting yourself out there and being yourself.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
I’m excited to start my full-time job in Memphis, Tennessee, working at Deloitte. My U.S. education was monumental in everything I have achieved. It prepared me very well for the real world. Ole Miss taught me a lot of social skills that I will cherish forever. I hope that my achievements help Honduras by inspiring others to pursue higher education and combat the corruption and violence that prevent progress.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering studying English in the USA?
I encourage everyone to come study in the USA! It was the best time of my life, and I made memories that I will never forget. Apply to schools that fit your wants and needs.