Andres Cepeda from Mexico is a sophomore studying Mechanical Engineering with an emphasis on manufacturing
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
One of the few things I knew when deciding where to study was that I wanted to combine the experience of going to college with that of exploring a new place. As an aspiring engineer, I ended up applying to multiple schools in the U.S. knowing that programs and opportunities to study engineering are among the best over here.
How did you choose your intensive English program?
When I first encountered the University of Mississippi (or Ole Miss) I knew little to nothing about it. However, as I kept looking over the option of coming here, I encountered that the small college town and the Southern culture made this place one of the best college environments in the U.S. On top of that, the people I contacted while making my decision were more than willing to help and aided me in finding the programs and scholarships that have made my experience at Ole Miss as best as possible.
What do you like best about studying here?
Definitely the people. There is not much that is more intimidating than moving thousands of miles away from home, yet I am so happy I ended up in Oxford, Mississippi. Since my first day, people have been nothing but friendly and caring. The great diversity on campus has allowed me to make strong friendships with people from a variety of backgrounds inside and outside the U.S.
What do you miss most about home?
No matter how comfortable I have grown to be here, there will always be two things I will be missing back in Mexico. My family and the food. Keeping in touch with my family nowadays is not that difficult. After a while, we got used to calling and keeping up with each other on a fairly regular basis. Missing food is different, however. For me, it is the most common reminder that I am somewhere different. Although sometimes it is sad not to be able to eat or do what I was used to back in Mexico, sometimes it is also a good reminder that the world is full of many other experiences than those that we know.
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?
Now I have been studying a full year at Ole Miss. My English has drastically improved. Not only do I feel like my vocabulary and use of the language have improved, but most importantly I feel like my confidence has done so too. In comparison to when I first got here, I no longer spend as much time thinking over whether what I say is correct or not. I feel way more comfortable interacting in situations ranging from casual chatting to academic presentations or professional events.
What was your biggest surprise about U.S. life and education?
College professors are mostly really nice people. The movies that I watched portrayed them as evil and strict, but the reality is quite different. They are normal people who are more than willing to form meaningful connections that will help students learn. Still, just like in any other social environment, you will find professors with closed and cold personalities, but that does not make less of them friendlier and open ones.
What was your biggest disappointment?
I think that my biggest disappointment from living and studying in the U.S. has been that on some occasions I have been too afraid to interact with other people. My experience has considerably changed since I started interacting with more people from here. Being open to different cultures not only comes from one’s perception of them but also from the ability of oneself to put yourself out there to meet and learn from others.
How have you handled language differences?
More times than what I am willing to admit, I have encountered myself in really awkward situations in which what I ended up saying was not at all what I meant to say. Most of the time, however, I am able to laugh it off, explain the situation, and rephrase what I am saying. So far, these situations end up being just fun hiccups as most people will usually be understanding and end up laughing with me.
How have you managed your finances?
Going to college in the U.S. is already an expensive experience even for people from here. I was lucky enough to find a university with a wide range of scholarships and awards for which international students are eligible. On top of that it is pretty common to get a part-time student worker job on campus, which I have used to pay for some of my needs and indulgences.
What’s it like adjusting to a different educational system?
Despite how it may seem or feel, as a first-year student you soon realize that everybody is going through similar changes. Most people will be as lost as you are, and it is really easy to find people to help you go through these new experiences. For most students, college life and classes are way different than what they are used to, yet adjusting to this new lifestyle does not take much more than a little bit of effort and patience.
What are your activities?
Since I first got here, I started looking for places and projects to be involved with. Currently, I am part of the Center for Manufacturing Excellence program, which has helped me improve my professional skills while also learning about business management, accounting, and engineering in manufacturing. I am currently involved in the program not only as a student but also as an ambassador and member of the advisory board. I am also a member of other clubs like the Society for Hispanic Professional Engineers and Future Defense Professionals. The facilities the university has, have also allowed me to pick up activities like going to the gym, training for a marathon with some friends, or practicing rock climbing every now and then.
How easy or difficult is making friends in the USA?
It does not take much to make friends. Even without being actively trying to make new connections, people are friendly enough to make it easy to build up a friendship as long as one is open to do so. Personally, I found that being involved was the best way to find and spend time with people who have similar interests and likes.
What are your career goals? How is your U.S. education relevant to your personal goals and to the needs of your country?
As an engineering student with a focus on manufacturing and an interest in aviation, studying in the U.S. has allowed me to have more access to opportunities directly related to what I want to be doing. Being able to participate in conventions, internships, and events directed toward what I aspire to work on has allowed me to grow professionally. I have been able to build a strong network with people involved in the industry, and also develop a better understanding of what job opportunities are available and how they match my expectations.
What is your advice to other students from your country who are considering studying English in the USA?
Do not feel intimidated by the idea of moving to another country to study. Hurdles and obstacles do exist, but ultimately there are not enough reasons to feel afraid about them. The amount of people and resources that exist to improve our experience as international students is overwhelming in the most positive way. Moving to study in the U.S. has been one of the biggest and best adventures of my life so far.
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