Saturday, May 9, 2015

Diversity and Funny Accent at School

     Are you planning to go back to school? Have you already signed up for summer classes or still researching and have plans for fall when you have energy after your summer vacation? In any case I bet you can be a little nervous as I definitely was.
How is it to study in American Universities and Colleges? How is it to study in a foreign environment that you still don't understand completely? And I am not talking about the classes you choose, but conversation with your peers as they are mostly Americans? Or are they?
      The amazing thing about studying in the most diversified country in the world is that you will definitely be not the only one foreigner wherever you go. That also applies to School. But you will not know if your classmates are foreigners as you, or if they are Americans with a foreign heritage, or if they moved here when they were very little and now still have a foreign accent. The classes I attend don't have a lot of foreign students, as I am taking evening classes and most of foreign students need to obtain minimum credit hours (due to the student visas), so they mostly study during the day. But we definitely have all kinds of nations in our class: white American, African American, Asian, Arabic and me, the Russian girl with "funny russian" accent.
     Professors always encourage interaction with students and their active participation in the class.  It can be a little embarrassing to talk out loud at the beginning, as you need time to hold on terminology and actually formulate your question about a scientific topic. If you ever took TOEFL or IELTS, being able to talk comfortably with your friends in English, but finally getting a score that is not as high as you had thought, you would understand me. But in class, teachers and peers are always patient and never make jokes on you (as far as I know, at least not at my face anyway). There are a lot of native English-speaking students who never talk. If you can break the barrier, you will feel as a winner already, even before completing your goal. Asking questions to a professor can also give you bonus points showing to the teacher that you are involved in what you do and that you are aiming to succeed.As a matter of fact, part of the score is somewhat related to your participation.So consider it is as a part of your study project.
   Once, one of professors talked to me after class and asked me to make all the questions that I may have and not to be afraid to take time to formulate myself till the point he gets me. He even tried to make me feel more comfortable by making a joke that he is old and doesn't hear good, so I need to repeat my questions several times. So far in my life I've already lost lots of my fears or overcome being shy, but it was so nice to hear those words from the professor. It really made my day!
     If you still feel shy to speak in front of the whole class, all professors have open hours, so you can require an appointment or just show up at the mentioned hours and talk with your professor privately. For some people it is much easier to have one-on-one conversations at first. And most of the teachers are really pushing you to use this available resource in due time rather than after you scored bad at your tests. The point is that sooner or later you need to start to feel OK with that diversity and that maybe you are not exactly the perfect piece on this plate. Whatever is your field of study, eventually you would need to make some kind of presentations. For my class that was the moment when everybody was heard. All the foreigners who were shy to interact during the class, the ones who had some trouble expressing themselves, all the other, maybe not shy, just not prepared... And you know what, I guess,everybody got used to the accent, at least I hope it doesn't sound too ridiculous anymore.
     Finally, all people at school are totally open to learn to know you, to find out who you are, to be your advisor or your friend, to be your teammate or your competition. Because this is what diversity gives us. It gives us healthy competition. Everybody has his own background and it doesn't matter if that is ethnicity, the color of the skin, religion or even sex. What puts us together are our goals. The scores will have no color. They will not be based on where you came from. But they will be based on who you are right now and how good can you perform in your chosen field. Good luck, guys and feel comfortable everywhere you go.