Twenty-one Zimbabwean students based at various United States colleges and universities shared their experiences about life and academic study at their respective colleges and universities answering intriguing questions from over 100 prospective students. The discussion session, held at the United States Embassy’s Eastgate offices on Tuesday as part of their weekly Food for Thought Tuesday presentation series, provided an opportunity for returning students, at various stages of their academic life including postgraduate studies, to share firsthand impressions of American college life.
The discussion was intended to assist prospective students to get firsthand information and appreciate student life as they plan for their studies in the U.S. Prospective students asked about general life in the various U.S. states where Zimbabwean students are studying, campus life, coping mechanisms, race relations, handling sports and academics, coping strategies and career and internship opportunities for international students.
The questions generated humorous and informative responses. Life is not easy at American colleges but doable, they said. “To me, everyday feels like you are preparing for A level exams,” commented another student.
“You can choose between three things—study, sleep or party!” added another student. “My school is ‘Wine Wednesdays,’ ‘Thirsty Thursdays,’ ‘Freaky Fridays,’ ‘Turnout Saturdays’ and ‘Chill Sundays’, so you can party all you can but you need to make sure your GPA score stays at 4,” said one student. They emphasized the point that the colleges support international students “really well”, but noted that it is important to stay in touch with international student advisers.
The returned students noted that most American colleges had something for everyone, including clubs in politics, African culture and specialist groups in which students could participate. “American culture is very diverse and you will always be culture-shocked from your first year to your final year,” said one student. “I have made a lot of friends and continued to live like an ordinary Zimbabwean.” Some students weighed in saying they joined clubs and played sport which enabled them to integrate smoothly with the way of life at their respective colleges. One student said she saw the new environment as a way of sharing her Zimbabwean culture, but noted that American culture is accepting of new ways of doing things. “Just be you and people will like you for who you are,” counselled one of the students.
The United States has one of the best and most comprehensive systems of higher education in the world. It boasts over 4,000 accredited and internationally recognized institutions of higher education, which welcome the diversity brought by international students on campuses. A significant number of American institutions offer need- and merit-based financial assistance to both undergraduate and graduate international students.
Recent figures released by the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange for the 2014- 15 academic year show that there are 1245 Zimbabwean students at accredited U.S. colleges and universities. Zimbabweans wishing to pursue studies in the U.S. can visit the EducationUSA Advising Center based at the Embassy’s Public Affairs Section in Eastgate Building in Harare or at the EducationUSA Advising Center based at the Bulawayo Public Library. Outside of the two main cities, students can visit the satellite advising centers at Gweru Memorial Library and Turner Memorial Library in Mutare.- ZimPAS © January 6, 2016