I can still remember it vividly.
Sitting in front of the US ambassador wiping sweat off my forehead thinking about all those sleepless nights applying for schools, studying for exams, interviews, learning English and all those things international students go through in order to study in U.S.
I sat there thinking that this decision is probably going to change my life forever. And it did. The next minute, the Ambassador smiled at me as he stamped the APPROVED word on my papers. I wanted to jump and scream for joy, but I had to remind myself that I was still sitting in front of the US ambassador. Everything went well and getting my F1 visa was my last step I had to take before coming to Tennessee.
A few weeks later, there I was, tucking my heart and dreams into a suitcase along with a few books, a few clothes, and a picture of my family. I hugged them tightly and then flew across the ocean hoping for the better. A better education and a better journey to learn, to grow, to rediscover myself and new parts of the world.
And I did. All of the above.
It’s been three years since I left the place that I call home Moldova, a small and beautiful land located between Romania and Ukraine. I lot of things have changed since but one thing I am confident about is that coming to study in U.S. is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I got a better education - different than the one I have ever expected. In my mind, education meant classes, assignments, and projects. That’s it. Instead, I got so much more. Confidence, adaptability, independence, and openness to new ideas, mindsets were only a few of the “classes” not included in the curriculum but somehow I ended up taking. I have always wanted to get better at those. Per my family and friends, I did.
Not to mention the importance of a cultural exchange and the gain of a global perspective when going into the job market. You learn how to approach, lead and work with people from different backgrounds. And I believe these are one of the most valuable skills to have.
I learned that different doesn’t mean wrong. Each culture is unique and U.S. is one of the most diverse countries. There are so many differences between U.S. and Moldova. It doesn’t necessarily mean that one is wrong and the other is right. It’s just different. In Tennessee, I’ve become friends with a lot of international students and it is beautiful to see different cultures interacting with each other. It is such a gift and the more you realize it, the more you learn to appreciate every ounce of it. There is, however, the risks of losing part of your own culture but you will only lose what you think it’s not worth keeping. And that is something only you get to decide.
Nashville became home and Nashvillians became family. I remember when I started meeting people and my accent was entertaining to others. I was even more entertained by theirs, like the Southern one! I remember laughing with tears and making others laugh at the way I was using English words in completely wrong contexts. Everyone around me was very understanding, while patiently teaching me the American measurement system, coins, or introducing me to the variety of food and the food combinations. They were also genuinely interested in the culture I grew up. They were asking lots of questions and welcomed mine without any judgments.
Was the adjusting process to American culture easy? No.
Was the high caliber American education worth trading for a familiar and comfortable experience? Absolutely!
So dear friends, wherever you are in the process, whether is just thinking of coming or whether you are holding your acceptance letter in your hand, my only hope for you to go out, challenge yourself and take advantage of the opportunities which have been given to you (or the ones you have to find).
You won’t regret it. I promise.
Good luck on your new journey and hoping for your experiences to be even better, fuller and richer than mine!
Jazgul Orozova, Lipscomb University student, Nashville, Tennessee