This piece was written on the request of a very good friend. She wanted me to relate my experiences in studying abroad. I am currently a student at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan in the USA. One of the first questions you may ask is how I got to that school or possibly why I chose it. The answer is that this is just a classic case of making the best of our opportunities.
In the spring of 2011 I applied for a pre-college program at said school and was successful throughout the program. I was awarded a partial scholarship to attend and having faith in God I placed all my chips and made the bet and now I am here. I am currently studying Biochemistry and I have had a wide range of experiences, many of which I hope to someday bring back to Jamaica. Probably the most extensive and beneficial experience I have had and will continue to have, is working at a hospital. In this setting I get to see firsthand what it is I aspire to be and I am able to gather a vast amount of experience with doctors who have been trained to the highest level and to also experience the technological innovations that have yet to reach Jamaican shores.
Studying abroad has the unfortunate reality of homesickness which I often have to battle with. Fortunately there is a network of other Jamaicans who attend and have graduated from the school who still keep our culture very much alive. This system helps in some way to mitigate the homesickness until when I get a chance to visit home again. The major struggles I have experienced in my time here would be transportation and living arrangements. I currently live on my own, by my choice and it is providing that experience of learning how to budget and how to be resourceful. While it could be regarded as a struggle I see it as an opportunity to gain some real world experience and like all the Jamaicans who have attended before me, an avenue by which we become stronger and more motivated individuals.
The school I attend is a bit unconventional in that unlike schools in the USA and in Jamaica, a term for me last only three months and in that time we cover the regular materials the other schools cover in 4-5 months. With that said you have to be on top of time management as missing a single lecture would be like missing a week of lecture at a normal university. Being in the situation I’m in I have been able to adapt (as many persons have to do when studying abroad) and so my academics are doing quite well and as long as I am focused I should continue on the same path.
While the academic schedule is hectic there are many opportunities to be social and so many clubs and organizations are available as well as sporting opportunities and so from those you meet a lot of new people from which you can learn about other cultures. I've met people from China, Russia, Iran, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Germany, and Azerbijan just to name a few and from each of them you have the opportunity to learn about a new culture.
Without being in both environments I cannot say studying abroad is better or worse than domestic study. However, I can say that personally I have learned a lot from my time here and have grown to be more independent and even developed a deeper love for my country, out of the fact that Jamaica is one of the brand names you can associate with while studying abroad. So overall the experience has been great and despite all the struggles along the way it is an opportunity worth taking.
By Micheal Thomas