Attended North Park University in Chicago, Illinois, BA Graduate in History and Secondary Education
Before I left:
My decision to study in America was no easy decision, however, I knew that it was something I felt led to do and I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was supposed to be somewhere else. There were a lot of things I was nervous about when moving to America, I was worried about the financial side of my move – America’s immigration laws aren’t graceful towards immigrants AT ALL. Additionally, being a biracial woman, I knew that I was entering into a society that enslaved black people for 200 years, what I didn’t know before moving to America is that the racism, prejudice and segregation STILL exists.
The biggest culture shock I had was within my own identity. (Of course, the food is a huge shock too and whilst many enjoy it when coming for a week or two, I am going on four years and my body is like – what is this?!) I didn’t understand that I was seen as a black woman. My whole life I was raised as a mixed-race woman enjoying my French and Ivorian cultures; however, when I was doing applications for universities and such, there was no “White and Black African” category any more and that hurt me as I felt like I constantly had to decide whether I wanted to attribute myself to my mother or my father’s culture. So, I put myself in the “other” category to make myself feel special lol – even though they still put me as “Caucasian” when I get my background checks. *Hand palm to the face*
Benefits of studying in the U.S.:
Honestly, most Americans never break free from whatever dominant culture they are part of. I used to get frustrated that everyone would ask me if I have had tea with the Queen or if I love tea and crumpets everyday but then I realized that I can use this to my advantage because I have a VOICE. When I was in university, I had a different perspective when analyzing materials especially as a historian as I could think critically as I have no personal affiliation with this country. As an international student you are kind of limited on what you can do just because of the visa situation but you can most definitely make the most of the experiences you have. I remember the first week I arrived, I went to the American football games with my other European friends and I didn’t understand what was going on so we went on Wikipedia to try to figure it out haha, who knew that I would start dating and eventually marrying the star wide receiver!
US Education system compared to the UK system:
Let me tell you that A-Levels will prepare you for anything. Honestly, I am so thankful that I took school seriously because when I came to America, they actually gave me credit for what I did at secondary school and college. This allowed me to graduate a year early as they took most of what I did in secondary school and college and said that I had fulfilled my general education requirements. So, basically how it works in most universities in America is that you pick what you want to study, so for me History & Secondary Education, and then you take A LOT of classes within those topics. So, I had about 48 credits in each degree (you need 120 credits to graduate with a BA). At my school you could take up to 17 credits a semester and each class was either 1, 2 or 4 credits depending on the length of the class (4 weeks, 8 weeks, 16 weeks). You do a bunch of assignments and/or tests in the class and then you get a letter grade. Those letter grades equal your GPA out of 4.0 (A lot of Math involved lol). I finished university with a 4.0 GPA in both my degrees and an overall GPA of 3.99. In the UK that would mean graduating with a First. It is a lot different because you have more of a well-rounded education rather than just focusing on one particular thing. For example, I took an Economics, Politics and Government class as well as a Bible class and things like that. I like that after 16 weeks you’re done with one topic and then you move on to whatever interests you. At the end of your 3 or 4 years you take a cumulative exam on everything you’ve studied within your major and then if you pass, you can graduate, if you don’t you’ll take it again.
You have one life, people will still be there when you get back (or when you don’t lol). Go explore the world before it’s too late! Also, get your friends to send you snacks from home lol!
“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” - Paulo Coelho
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