James Mwakyonde from Tanzania Shares His Journey
Since I was a little kid, I remember dreaming about coming to the United States someday. At that time, it was only a dream, but I was hopeful to change this dream into reality. I worked very hard in school and put forth a lot of effort to maintain good grades. When I shared my future goals with my friends, they laughed and told me there is no way I would ever go to the United States. They said over and over, “James, you’re not serious! College is very expensive, especially in the United States!” At times, I was very discouraged, but I never gave up. I believed there was a way if I continued to work hard, and I stayed optimistic about my future education.
The first challenge
Soon after graduating from high school, my opportunity finally came. My friend Michelle Henry, who lives and teaches in Tampa, Florida, recommended I apply to Hillsborough Community College (HCC). I started the application process right away. The first step was to take and pass the TOEFL, a test designed to measure the level of English proficiency of international students.
I really struggled with this test, not because of my English skills, but because I had no prior experience with taking online tests. I had very little access to computers where I lived in Tanzania. This obviously made the test even more challenging, but I got through it.
More challenges to come
I encountered so many other challenges along the way. There were required documents that I was missing. Honestly, I didn’t even have a copy of my birth certificate. I needed a passport and national identification number as well. At the time, it seemed like a mountain too big to climb. I started working to get my documents, one at a time, and eventually had everything I needed. When I was finally accepted into HCC for the fall 2021 semester, it felt like a miracle!
Two steps forward, and one back
My visa interview appointment was scheduled a bit late, but HCC extended my arrival date to accommodate me. Everything was finally falling into place. I was so confident this was my destiny, that I went ahead and bought my flight to Florida BEFORE my visa interview! Unfortunately, after feeling like I was so close to reaching my dream, my U.S. visa was denied. I did not bring my high school transcripts, and they were requested during the interview. (Lesson learned: Bring absolutely everything you might need to your interview just in case they ask to see it!)
You can do it, too!
If I can offer any encouragement at all, it would be to stay the course! Don’t give up! I felt so discouraged after the denied visa, but I knew I had to try again. My second visa interview was scheduled for the following month. After watching hundreds of videos on YouTube of visa interviews, this time, I was successful! My visa was approved! I left for the U.S. in December 2021, and I started my studies at HCC in January 2022. It has been the most difficult but best year of my entire life, and I would not change a single thing!
|James Mwakyonde from Tanzania is an international student in the Pre-Nursing AS program at Hillsborough Community Collegein Tampa, Florida.|
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