My Story From Haiti To BHCC: Loyd Billy Graham Joseph
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
In a country where higher education is a privilege bestowed upon a select few, I was fortunate to be able to choose to study in the United States because it can provide me with opportunities that my home country, Haiti, cannot. Haiti was unable to provide me with the excellent and continuous education that the United States can. I was aware that American society rewarded creativity and dedication, especially among young people, which is almost non-existent in my home country. I want to take advantage of all of the opportunities that have and currently do not exist in my home country in order to provide similar opportunities, in the future, to young Haitian dreamers like myself, which is why I chose to study in the United States.
Why did you choose this particular college or university?
Three specific factors influenced my decision to attend Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC):
Cost: Bunker Hill Community College provided me with a less expensive alternative to a university education in the USA, which is known for its excellent educational institutions. I was overjoyed to learn that I could transfer my credits from Bunker Hill to colleges all over the country, which is fantastic!
Diversity: I wanted to attend a community college that was large and diverse enough to resemble a traditional university campus, and Bunker Hill has a very diverse student body.
Location: I wanted my school to be close to Boston so that I could visit the city's various landmarks and museums on my days off. Bunker Hill is close to downtown, the campus buildings are right next to the subway’s orange line, and the school has its own station.
What do you like best about your program or university?
My favorite aspect of my program is the hands-on experience I get from lab experiments and class projects. These activities are specifically designed for students to learn hands-on, and many of them involve team collaboration, providing us with unparalleled opportunities to form bonds with our classmates. The projects we get to work on in groups are exciting, intense, and educational. Teachers provide ample opportunities for students to be as creative as they can with their projects, and they are always ready to assist you with any problems that may arise.
What do you miss most about home?
There are many things about home that I miss, but I believe the most important are my community, my family, and Haitian food. During my studies in the United States, I've found it hard to find or create an environment or community similar to what I had back home. Just as the United States is full of amazing things, opportunities, and social scenes that I will not find and probably will never experience back home, there are many aspects of my culture and home that I have not been able to find and will most likely never experience here in the United States, such as local Haitian food or the sense of community found among friends and loved ones. Though it is possible for me to find various restaurants that serve food that reminds me of home, as well as cook Haitian recipes, I can always taste the difference between dishes due to the products not being from the same area; however, this encourages me, and many other international students who are experiencing the same, to appreciate every single trip that we get to take visiting our home countries and families.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
I've been surprised by how much help and support people are willing to provide if you just ask! I knew Americans were friendly, but I expected people to be hesitant to assist me, especially if they did not know me personally. This, however, was not the case. I've spoken with many people who have been extremely helpful; they've advised me on how to find campus employment and internships, fill out paperwork, open a bank account, take the subway, and where to go for fun activities, among other things. My experience has been that everyone wants to help me succeed if they can — whether it's a classmate helping me find the right chemistry tool during laboratory sessions or a faculty member helping me find a scholarship.
... your biggest disappointment?
I believe that the COVID-19 played a significant role in the disappointments that many international students studying in the United States have experienced in the last three years, including myself. My biggest disappointment was having to start my program online, which I do not believe is the best option out there in a world where people's attention spans are constantly decreasing. It takes away all of the fun and excitement of being an international student, or any student for that matter! Learning without the benefit of face-to-face interaction is not for everyone, especially international students who experience the digital divide that exists between developed and developing countries; many lack the e-readiness required for online studies.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
I handled the language differences very well; it helped a lot that I was able to attend an international American School during my last three years of high school, where I got to practice English before coming to the United States, but my abilities have greatly improved since then. I've discovered that watching your favorite TV shows with English subtitles, as well as reading a lot, is the key to dealing with language differences in English; you can begin with social media posts and magazines and gradually progress to more advanced reading materials, while always keeping your phone or a dictionary nearby to quickly look up any words you don't understand. The "Grammarly" Chrome extension, on the other hand, is my "true secret" for dealing with grammatical and vocabulary differences; this extension is ideal for an international student; it helps to improve your classwork as well as your vocabulary and grammar knowledge.
The majority of international students struggle with financial management because we rely on a variety of factors to ensure our financial stability. Many international students, including myself, rely on our parents' or sponsors' income to make ends meet while studying. However, when the stability of your finances is dependent on factors beyond your control, such as your country's political stability, national security, and inflation rates, the best way to manage your finances is to use financial literacy skills to spend, save, and invest wisely.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
It was not difficult for me to adjust to a different educational system because I had previously been a part of the American educational system, as I had the opportunity to attend an International American school for the last three years of my high school education in my home country, and many of the processes were familiar to me. However, I must add that the numerous people who have been there to support me along the way, from the wonderful academic advisers I met on my first day, to the staff at the International Center, as well as the faculty, have all made my transition to Bunker Hill easier and less stressful.
What are your activities?
During the fall semester of 2021, I began volunteering as a Team Leader and preschool educator for Jumpstart, a national early education organization dedicated to ensuring that every child in America enters kindergarten ready to succeed. It's an activity that I've found to be very fulfilling; it helped me realize that, just like children, we adults need to feel heard, appreciated, and supported. This simple understanding has led me to develop my expressive leadership by implementing the same passion and positivity in my classrooms and workplaces; the remarkable impact I was able to make has proven to me that a positive attitude is a critical component of team collaboration and success.
I was also a member of BHCC's Drama Club, which was a fantastic experience with an amazing group of talented and diverse people. It was a sad moment for me when I had to stop because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Another accomplishment I am particularly proud of is my role as an International Student Ambassador at BHCC. I never get tired of learning about other international students' cultures, backgrounds, and stories! I've had the opportunity to meet and assist so many wonderful people. I was amazed by how much of an impact I was able to make simply by answering students' and families' questions and connecting with prospective and current students.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
I've been living in the United States for about three years and have discovered that making friends here completely depends on your personality type and what you want from a friend, this country is so vast in so many different aspects, that I have found that it can be incredibly easy to find a niche and make friends.
In my experience, it is easier if you are looking for someone who shares your interests, or if you are looking to meet people who have similar backgrounds and experiences as you, as this can help you form stronger bonds. At BHCC, I had the opportunity to meet and be a part of a group of Haitian STEM students who supported and helped each other better understand and succeed in our classes.
I've discovered that people in the United States are very friendly and willing to meet new people, even if only for a few minutes, but it all depends on how willing you are to put yourself out there, as I believe it can be difficult for some people to approach you and initiate a conversation or make the first move. Student clubs, class activities, school events, and social media are the best places to meet new people and form great friendships.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
I've always wanted to help my home country of Haiti. I was never sure of the "how," but I knew this was what I wanted to do. I believe that Haiti must be completely upgraded, from every Haitian's core mindset to our infrastructure. Through various internal discussions and analyses, I've discovered that the first step toward this upgrade is “food and industrial production,” two struggling sectors in the country. This understanding led me to the United States in 2019 with a single goal in mind: to gain the expertise required to assist my country in producing as much food and creating as many jobs as possible!
I am currently pursuing an Associate degree in Engineering Transfer Option as a member of Bunker Hill Community College's Commonwealth Honors Program, and I am eager to begin the next chapter of my journey. I plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering, which I believe will enable me to affect structural change in Haiti by assisting the food and manufacturing industries in improving their systematic processes as an expression of personal service to my country. There is no more worthy ideal, in my opinion.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering studying English in the USA?
I believe there is one statement that is the key to success in the United States, and anyone who understands it well will be successful in anything: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
Stop thinking of all the reasons why something shouldn't work in your favor and replace them with all the reasons why it should — and believe that you have already obtained it! That's right: if you think positively, you will achieve positive results. It's also important not to deny yourself something until you have given someone the opportunity to say no to you, and even then, if you really want it and it is worth it, keep going after it!
It's true that asking doesn't guarantee that you'll get what you want immediately, but it does guarantee that someone will help you find it (and maybe even give it to you). And if they don't know the answer? They'll find out for you! So, don't be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone!
Remember that "you reap what you sow," which is the most important law of the universe. “Every action has a reaction” — meaning, whatever you want to be done to you, do for and to others; serve, help, be nice to people, and learn to say “hello!” You might be surprised at how easily people will say yes when you are polite and they know what you need from them.
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