One of the things that I have always dreamed about is to gain knowledge through multiple sources: sources here don't only refer to online, reading books, or talking to people. I am talking about actually expanding by experiencing different education systems; by traveling to different countries to learn more about a culture and adapt- or in my case, make it as part of my own culture. Years ago before I even dreamed about studying in America, I was thrilled to go to India and see, experience, and live in a different culture, a different education system.
When I got the chance to do so I was overly-excited. Living in India introduced me to studying in a small classroom where the maximum capacity is 25-30 students. Studying in India was overwhelming due to the pressure of board exams, the materials covered in exams and so on. Soon after finishing high school I wanted to continue in India to study further and get a bachelor’s degree but then I got an opportunity to study in a different country with an entirely different culture and education system. A country where the 4th of July is celebrated with a blast, a country where you could feel that Christmas is coming as early as October, a country where I have seen people be thankful for a lot of things and celebrate it and call it “Thanksgiving”.
Yes, you guessed it right, from the hints and the headings, it is America.
Coming to America to study undergraduate was one of the best decisions I have made (believe me I have made a lot of regretful decisions, I mean who hasn’t right)? However, before I came I was afraid of facing a different education system, I was afraid of going to a place where the media talks about a lot of bad things (I mean really a lot), but at the same time, I was excited to come to a place that gives you millions of opportunities. That provides you with the most amazing experience that you could have, like shopping on Black Friday, digging the deeper meaning of the street arts in LA, or simply just experiencing the freezing weather we had last year in the Midwest. I have been here since freshman undergraduate and I am still complaining even if it's 4 degrees Celsius, so when I say it was freezing- believe me, it was very cold.
Once I applied to different colleges in the U.S., I got accepted to both public and private schools, I was intrigued to find out that some public schools have over 150 students in a classroom. I thought how is that even possible, are they going to have a place to sit? Obviously, I hadn’t seen or heard such a thing in my life, so I was curious to find out more, but I realized that the best place for me would be to study in a classroom where I could get to know my professors as well as my classmates very easily. I decided to go to a private school. The private school that I am about to graduate from is St. Ambrose University, studying here has provided me with a lot of long-lasting experiences both in the classroom and outside of the classroom.
The American Education system
One of the things that is different from the education system I have seen in America for starters, is that high school is four years. When I heard that I was amazed, I said why don’t you just call it college and call college a university and then there is a difference between a university and a college as well? That is when I stopped thinking about it because I knew I would never get it.
Colleges go by a credit system, to graduate you have to take 120 credits in total. You also have- if you are in a liberal arts college- what you call a general education requirement where you have to meet requirements from humanities, history, theology, philosophy and so on. At first, I was like if I am studying a business course, why in the world would I need to take a course in theology, but they are designed and inter-related. For example, taking a philosophy class actually teaches you the ethics you will use in the business world. There are so many things that make the education system different between America and back home.
Another thing that I want to mention is the different options you have in the classes. There are so many classes in each requirement, and you can choose which one sounds more interesting to you and take that class. (I wish it was like that back home, the classes were already picked for us and we were stuck with it for the rest of the year).
The last thing that I want to mention is that in the United States, the courses only run for a semester and a semester consists of 3-4 months.
Studying in a Classroom
As I mentioned earlier, the classrooms in private universities are small, consisting of 20-30 students in a classroom, and sometimes less than that. I really love the first day of classes here, because you always meet different people every semester (back home, in Somalia, I was studying with the same people every year). The first day of every course, every semester, there is always an introduction, and you learn a lot about your professor and your classmates, and it's a great chance to let others get to know you as well. Plus, group projects with smaller groups give a deeper meaning to your learning style. Soon after introductions, you get a syllabus that follows the entire semester, and should any changes happen, professors will inform you ahead of time. Given the small classroom, you can build a strong relationship with your professor. Every semester I felt the concern that the professor had for the success of their students.
There are so many reasons why I would choose an American classroom rather than classrooms back home. But since I can’t cover them here, I might write more in another blog post, so stay tuned. I have loved every experience that I have gained from studying in the United States; the amazing club opportunities on campus, the smaller classrooms where people are friendly and welcoming, the strong concern from the professor for the success of the students, and much more.
This is my last semester at St. Ambrose, and I will always keep in mind the different experiences that this place has brought and the friendly welcoming environment that the campus faculty have put together.
Aweys Ahmed Aweys of Somalia, is in his final semester, studying Finance and Marketing at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa.