Rosaline Kamara is from The Gambia, she is a junior majoring in Medical Laboratory Sciences at Minnesota State University, Mankato
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
The United States is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. and experiencing diversity is a key factor for me. I wanted to have the opportunity to learn about new cultures, languages, and meet new people. Universities offer excellent support facilities that guarantee student success.
Why did you choose this particular college or university?
I was in awe when I saw Minnesota State University, Mankato webpage. The school’s location and surroundings seemed perfect for me, its vibrant colors and infrastructures were attractive. When I browsed through the page, every information that I needed on how to apply was easy to follow. Their high diversity ratings and inclusive global environment gave me a sense of belonging. Tuition is very affordable coupled with the International Maverick Scholarship, which is offered to every international undergraduate automatically. The school is based in an almost crime-free area and friendly school environment. The locals are helpful, and there are many amazing places to visit for fun and relaxation.
What do you like best about your program or university?
I love the fact that MSU Mankato has given me the opportunity to grow, be more open-minded and confident, and refine my social skills. I have met people from all over the world and created lasting friendships because of its diverse student population. They have a wide range of programs to choose from, and I am doing exactly the major I am interested in and excelling at it. Faculty and staff are very supportive and offer the best resources that gear towards my success in college. I am sure I wouldn’t have experienced the cultural diversity or warm welcoming environment that MSU offers somewhere else.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss my family and friends so much, the slow-paced life, the closely knitted community I lived in. I miss the food. I have eaten food similar to what I eat back home, but it’s definitely not the same feeling! I miss the various beaches where I will go sit, read, and watch sunsets. I miss the tropical climate and quiet life.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
It wasn’t exactly the fairytale dream that I had imagined at first. The differences were so obvious about the way life is set up here. You are expected to be independent and know upfront knowledge about what is expected of you. You have to speak up and participate in class discussions. Education isn’t necessarily harder, but it’s a lot of work and assignments to do. I have integrated well into the system.
... your biggest disappointment?
Americans can be so focused on racial differences. I didn’t have to notice my skin color as black until I got to the U.S. There is a clear distinction between white and “people of color” and conversations about race is a norm. The health system is really expensive, and students struggle to pay for health insurance sometimes.
How have you handled:
... language differences?
MSU has students from over 90 countries, and therefore a lot of different languages are spoken on campus. Since I come from an English-speaking country, I speak English fluently and didn’t have an issue communicating with domestic America. However, I had to strain my ears a bit to understand what French, Spanish, Arab speaking students might be saying due to heavy local accents. Since we live in a tech savvy world, all I have to do is use Google translate to help with conversations I don’t understand. Navigating language barriers though was relatively easier.
You can easily face some financial difficulties during your educational pursuit in the U.S. The cost of living is quite high compared to my home country. However, through the help of a mentor in the international office, I was able to get a job on campus to meet my basic needs. Not only that, tuition is very much affordable at MSU Mankato thanks to scholarships offered. I was a lucky recipient of two scholarship awards, which has helped ease my financial burden.
... adjusting to a different educational system?
The educational system in the U.S. is a bit challenging as it can be energy and time consuming. Assignments and projects are the major factors of education in the U.S. Class participation is sometimes required for points to be given. I try my best to be organized with my schedule by planning my week ahead. I use a to-do list daily to get things done. I avoid procrastination as this can lead to negative consequences like missing important deadlines. Good time management is of the essence too.
What are your activities?
To gain a full college experience out of the classroom, I have been involved and am still engaged in a lot of extra-curricular activities. I volunteered to be an activities coordinator for an international festival on campus. I was a member of the African and International student association. I was a peer mentor for the international orientation to welcome new students to campus. I was part of the diversity committee on campus which tackles issues affecting diversity and inclusion. I participated in a global women leadership program and gained some valuable leadership skills and knowledge. I am currently a team lead for the Mavericks Global Ambassador program for internationals. We create social media content and promote MSU Mankato to prospective students. I am also a student leader via my learning community coordinator position mentoring first year students as they transition to life in college. I have won several scholarship awards related to academics and my leadership qualities. All of these summed together has given me an all rounded college experience.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
Since MSU has a really diverse population, it’s relatively easy to meet people, create meaningful connections, and form friendships. I can engage in small talk with strangers easily. However, I think making friends with Americans is difficult. It is very easy to talk to Americans at first, but it is hard to make connections with them or to take the friendship to the next level. If you want to make friends in the U.S., you have to spend time joining different activities outside of school.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
I hope to have my BSc degree in the Medical Laboratory Science area and gain 2-3 years of work experience in a clinical lab setting. I want to pursue my masters and PhD in oncology research (cancer studies) as I will love to contribute my knowledgeable skills to fight the ongoing battle against cancer. My higher education is an excellent opportunity for me to gain valuable life skills in and out of the classroom to help me prepare better for my future career. My exposure to an advanced educational setting like those available in the U.S. has significantly contributed to my growth and progress towards my goals. One of my main goals in life is to use whatever knowledge I acquire through education to positively make an impact in my home country.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering studying in the USA?
Try your best to keep an open mind about new knowledge. You might experience cultural shock and differences, but don’t let that deter you from easing into the American culture. Be enthusiastic to learn about cultures apart from your own. While it may be easy to stick with other international students when you first get to campus, try to branch out and attend events with American students as well. Learn to network and take notes of your surroundings. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you seem stuck or confused. There are many resources available that can help you navigate and guide you. Don’t forget to relax and have fun!
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