An international student journey in GCC before and during the transition to new normal.
After two and a half years, many classes, a lot of experiences, and even a pandemic, I am here to share my experience at Genesee Community College (GCC). My name is Tiago Ortega, I’m 21 years old, and I’m an international student from Brazil at GCC. I just graduated with my Musical Theatre Certificate and Theatre Associate’s Degree. I arrived here in 2019 with the big dream of becoming a musical theatre actor. I was very scared because it was my first time living by myself, and I was doing it in a different country.
My first semester was a long journey of adaptation and discovery. I was learning about a new culture and new people, and adapting to living alone far from home, which was hard since I’m very close to my family. Looking back now, I can see that my first semester was one of my best at the college. The pandemic probably had a lot to do with that, but I’ll talk about that later in my post.
Derailed by the pandemic
My following semesters were a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Going through a pandemic that lasted almost two years was not fun, and I believe it directly affected my college life and experience. I could write pages and pages about how online school doesn’t work for me, how I was having to quarantine, and how that affected my personal life too, but I think most of us went through the same feelings and situations during that time.
How I made it work
So instead, I’ll talk about what I did to keep sane and keep up with my school life. It was not easy due to the circumstances, and as I said before, online learning is not my thing. One of the best things that I did to keep track of my classes and what I was supposed to do for each class was getting a whiteboard calendar to put on my wall and writing down everything that I had to do for all of my classes. I like when I see what I have to do because it helps to remind me of things that are coming up and keep track of what is happening.
The jobs I had
During these pandemic semesters, I also started working at the college. I started working as a resident advisor at the dorms, which worked really well because I had to stay here anyway. It not only saved me some money but was also a good way of getting to know more people. I also started working with COVID testing, since we had to test every week, and it was a good opportunity to learn more about working and professionalism in the U.S.
The last job I got was as a Student Ambassador in the admissions office. This job taught me a lot about the skills and responsibilities inside an office. It was part of my plans to start working at the college at some point, but it happened faster than I was expecting. Because I spent a lot of time in my apartment and on campus, I was able to get in contact with people more easily and the process of finding and getting jobs was easier. Working on campus was not only a great way of making some extra money as an international student, but it also allowed me to meet more members of the staff.
Returning to class & campus
This last semester, in-person classes came back and most of the students were back on campus. It was amazing to see life back on campus, people having classes in person, friends seeing each other after such a long time, and in-person events happening once again. It was very exciting to be back after almost 2 years, and the craziest thing was to see how much we all had changed during this time. I can say that I changed a lot, and after all these semesters here I’ve learned much more than I expected.
Coming to a different country to study was probably one of the best decisions that I’ve made, and everything that I learned and the people that I met are just priceless. Part of all that has to do with the environment that I was part of. GCC had a big influence on everything, and I couldn't be happier about choosing to study here. When I arrived, everyone was extremely helpful and nobody made me feel out of place or lost. It was like everyone was there to help me and they were willing to make me as comfortable as possible.
If I had to give you one piece of advice about college life it would be to understand that you are an adult who is responsible for yourself and to keep everything as organized as possible. All the other things you will either learn by yourself or someone will help you, but these two pieces of advice are the ones that I wish someone had given me before I started my college journey.
Tiago Ortega from Brazil just graduated from Genesee Community College with a Musical Theatre Certificate and Theatre Associate’s Degree.
Check Out These Schools
Start your U.S. adventure with Study in the USA
Learn About U.S. education financing, housing, and more
Studying abroad is an invaluable step in your professional and personal growth. Prodigy Finance have helped fund over 20,000 master’s students to pursue their dreams at the best schools of the world.
Backed by Cambridge University Press & Assessment and the University of Michigan, MET helps you achieve your goals and fulfill your aspirations by providing a trusted English language exam developed for the real world.
Let us help you through your U.S. visa application process. GET STARTED NOW!
Learn about American culture and education direct from our experts at Study in the USA. Read more