This time of year is very distinct in the United States. The weather begins to change, the days are shorter and the summer season drifts away and into the beginning of the school year. Besides a new crisp breeze and the sound of ruffling leaves, there's an excitement in the air. It doesn't matter who you are or where you're from, the first day of school is a milestone memory. For the very young, they are literally having their very first day of school. Some students have changed schools and are arriving at unfamiliar buildings, full of unfamiliar faces. While others are stepping into adulthood and christening their first day of university. Exciting! I've never been an international student, but I can only imagine how it must feel ... like all those first day feelings multiplied by 100. Here are some former international students' stories ...Jane was born in Sutton, England and came to the United States with her family in 1986. She studied Psychology and Mass Media at Seattle Central Community College. Born and raised in the U.K. I was used to a 'cold' sort of education. I had to wear a school uniform, and call the teacher 'Sir'. Going to school was all about work – there wasn't a whole lot of fun involved. Truthfully, I can't remember enjoying much of it at all. My teachers were monotone and unenthusiastic. Going to school in the USA, in my mid-twenties, was a wholly different experience. I was apprehensive and a little overwhelmed. I needed to take SAT's. I didn't know what those were, and my qualifications from the U.K. weren't recognized in the U.S. Despite these obstacles, navigating the system wasn't as hard as it seemed at first. I was able to transfer my qualifications to American credits. I took classes to help me understand what the SAT's were all about and how to study for them. The teachers were down to earth and friendly. I felt supported and guided all the way through. I found it wasn't too hard to shake my formal 'Britishness'. Finding my way around was a bit scary at first, but it didn't take long to get the hang of it, and soon I was walking around school like I'd been there for ages.
I remember my first class was Abnormal Psychology. My teacher was a big guy, he walked in to the class room wearing a leather jacket and sunglasses and cracked some sort of joke I can't remember now, but I was instantly at ease.I had expected to find attending a U.S. school more casual than in England, and so I supposed I had expected the work to be easier also. Turns out I was wrong. The assignments were still challenging and I needed to work hard. Studying in America holds many distractions, and at times, I found it hard to stay focused. I enjoyed the diversity of my school, so many different people, it was so refreshing to me. It was interesting to learn about other cultures. I had not experienced anything like it in England. And it seemed that as long as I smiled, everyone seemed pretty approachable.