International student Mio Ariga from Japan is improving her English and making friends at HCC.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
Living in the United States has been my dream since I was 10 years old. Since I grew up in Japan, I did not have many opportunities to meet people from all over the world. I wanted to put myself in a situation where I could learn about other cultures by communicating with people from various parts of the world by using English.
Why did you choose your college?
When I told my father about my interest in going to university in the States, he asked me to go somewhere that I have some family. He asked me to find a good college in Florida since my aunt is living in Tallahassee. When I saw the website for Hillsborough Community College (HCC), I was surprised that they have dorms right next to the campus with many international students. Besides, HCC was the only college that my family could afford. I am positive that I made the best choice.
Have you taken any classes outside your major that you’ve enjoyed?
It would be psychology. I am currently taking a psychology class with honors. First, I took it just because it was mandatory for graduation. However, as the class went by, I realized how interesting to know more and more about psychology. Now I am working on a project to see the psychological phenomena in our daily lives. It is so much more fun than I expected!
What were some struggles you faced and how did you handle them?
The biggest struggle I had was my English level. I am a talker, and I like to communicate with many people. However, when I speak English, I get shy and cannot express what I want to say. I was mad at myself for being anxious about talking in English, so what I did was I started to speak to myself whatever things came to my mind when I was alone. It helped me to have confidence in using English in front of people. Also, my friends kept telling me my English was good, so I could finally get confident. Thanks to my friends!
What is your favorite place on campus?
I like the little patio on campus next to the gym. It is a small table with 4 chairs next to the little flowers and trees. I like studying outside, and most of the time it's quiet. It is like a little secret place whenever I want to clear my head and do assignments.
What do you want to do after graduation?
I want to open a business in Japan for the Black young people who live in Japan. Since I grew up in Japan as “blasian,” which is Black and Asian (my father is from Jamaica), I struggled to find the products for my skin color and hair texture. Even though we are the minority, there should be somewhere we can rely on. Therefore I want to make a community for them so they will not have to feel the same way that I felt.
What are some of your upcoming holiday or summer plans?
I plan to go to Brazil with my six dear friends during winter break! Last summer, some of them visited Japan, and it was such a precious time that they were experiencing how I grew up and know what my culture is. I cannot wait to do the same!
Does your college organize any fun events you’ve attended or are looking forward to?
Yes, a lot! The events on campus or at the dorm were one of the reasons to meet so many great friends. For example, game nights, trivia, bingo — there are so many opportunities to meet new people and most of the time they prepare good prizes!
Have you traveled around the U.S.?
I have been to New York and Los Angeles with my friends. New York was my dream city. I enjoyed it just walking around the city, and I would definitely go back soon! When we went to L.A., it was such a weird experience. Last summer, L.A. was just the transit to Tokyo so we arrived there around 10 p.m. Until the next flight, we decided to spend 10 hours outside of the airport. We went to the famous street, but walking there after midnight was not a safe decision. In the morning, we ended up surviving in L.A. without getting hurt, but it was one of the crazy experiences I had, so I will never forget about it.
What were some of your favorite places, or where would you like to go?
I love the beaches in Florida. They are clear, not too busy, and easy to access. Since I grew up in a busy city, I realized how good it is to lie on the beach without doing anything. It always helps me to clear my mind and motivates me to try new stuff!
What is one of your favorite memories from your time as a student?
My favorite memory is when I finally let my guard down in front of my new friends that I made in the United States. It could be such a small moment for them, but for me, I felt that I had loyal and trustable friends. It was the time when we went to the beach around midnight. We were just talking about our life in the United States. That was the first time I actually told anyone about the thing I was scared of and the thing that I am struggling with so far. They told me that everything was going to be fine and that I was doing a good job here. Having precious friends changed my whole life in the U.S., and I will never forget that night.
Describe your experience in three words.
New, kindness, fear.
What would you tell students who are considering studying in the USA?
Go! Studying in the U.S. would give you different kinds of opportunities, not just academically but also in your daily life. I know the fear of living apart from family and alone but don’t worry. There are many students who are facing the same fear and they will have your back anytime! Coming to the United States was the best decision I made in my life, and it will be yours too!
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