One way to be successful as an International student in United States is to make friends and be active on campus. Applying it during my college life especially since the second quarter at Green River Community College (GRCC) led me to be an International student leader on campus.
During the third quarter of my study (Spring 2013), I applied to work as a Peer Navigator with the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (ODEI). After getting three recommendation letters and other documents ready, I finally got interviewed by the supervisor and two other members of the office. I was really nervous because I knew there were so many applicants and their chances of being chosen were bigger than mine.
As soon as I was done with the interview, Michael Tuncap – the supervisor of ODEI – announced that I got accepted. If you can see my face at that time, I guarantee you will laugh. I was just staring at the three people in front of me and I couldn’t say anything. It was unbelievable for me as an international student who has English as my second language to compete with domestic students whose English is their first language and still get the job. Anyway, I thank God that I can get this job and be the only international student who works in this office. At first, it was really hard for me. Communicating with Americans especially when they use slang words is not easy. I have to listen to the words carefully so that I can answer their questions correctly. Most of the time, I would be the quietest person in the office because I didn’t know what to talk about, and I always felt like they would not understand when I was talking. Working as a peer navigator, I have to do specific tasks such as:
As a peer navigator, one of the main tasks that we have to do is make sure that students succeed in their education and social life. This is important because from about 10,000 students at GRCC, only 30% will graduate and finish their education. During the mentoring, we facilitate the study table and help them, either for education or social problems.
This task is fun for me. You get to plan events that you want at GRCC. This task makes you look like an expert event planner. The event that we have to organize must be culture-based or education-based events. The intention is that students come to our events and learn something new from other people, such as new cultures and languages. One of these events is campus visit to famous universities in the State of Washington. We are currently planning to organize conferences about education on campus.
Mentoring Student Clubs
There are several student clubs under the office that I work for. They are Asian Student Union (ASU), Black Student Union (BSU), Latino Student Union (LSU), First Nation, Pacific Islanders Students Union (PISU), Queer & Ally (Q&A), and Muslim Student Association (MSA). Each week we have to go to one of this clubs, mentor them, and submit a report later in our weekly meeting. The clubs themselves can create their own cultural events on campus. For instance, ASU will have their Lunar New Year Celebration on January 31st (today!) and a lot of students from Asian countries will contribute dances, songs, and traditional foods, including students from Indonesian Student Organization (ISO) who come up with Tari Piring.
Giving Campus Tour
Another task as a peer navigator is to give campus tour to prospective students. We have to sign up and work together with the Welcome Center at GRCC and they will let us know if prospective students want to have campus tour. The first couple of weeks before doing the campus tour the peer navigators will be trained to talk about the buildings and other landmarks on campus.
It is now my second quarter working in ODEI and I feel so different. I can talk actively to my co-workers and I feel more confident using English when I have to write and send emails to other people. Well, I think the saying “practice makes perfect” is so true, and you just have to keep it up. I admit that it’s not easy to be an international student in the U.S. especially when you have to interact with domestic people in your surroundings. I have faced a lot of culture shocks and homesickness, and even I wanted to give up once. The key is you have to step out of your comfort zone. It’s okay to be different, to be unique and to be the only international student in your surroundings. Remember that we also have potentials that other students don’t have. We can do as good as they do or even better. We can compete with them, even though English is not our first language and they can speak it fluently. So, while you are still a student, take advantage of the opportunity to make as many friends as you can and participate actively on campus, and be proud of yourself. Remember, it’s good to be different!
Photo Credit: The featured image is taken by the author herself.