An International Student in The United States

Hi! My name is Aurelie Bibentyo. I am a 23 years old girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I came in the United States in 2010 as an international student. It was the most challenging experience of my life. After graduating from high school in Congo, my parents decided to send me in the United States to study. I am the first girl in my family who has been sent in the United States for school. I purposely specified “first girl” because in most African culture, girls are meant for marriage; the education of girls is really not considered. Therefore, for my father to agree on sending me away for school was a huge responsibility for me. Despite all the struggles of moving to another country, I was able to overcome my challenges.
When I got in the United States, learning English was the most difficult experience, especially coming from a French Speaking country. When I got into my first English class at Montgomery College, I was intimidated and afraid of speaking because I did not know any English. After class, I decided to approach my professor and ask for help to improve my English outside of the class. She suggested to watch TED speeches online, listen to NPR and make friends in the class. These tools were very helpful for my listening and speaking skills. In addition, one of my classmates helped me to get a job on campus in a Writing Center, where I was a student assistant and a peer French tutor. I also joined the Women’s Studies Club as a treasurer, where I worked with other students and helped to organize fundraisings for non-profit organizations such as, Women for Women International.
Even though the beginning of my international student’s journey was really tough, I found a way to overcome it. Every time I was frustrated, I would think about my little sister and cousins who looked up to me. I knew that I had no choice other than succeeding because I did not want to set a bad example for my little ones. It did not happen overnight, but I made a choice of not feeling sorry for myself, so I worked hard to school and grabbed every opportunity so I could make myself and my family proud. I was on the Dean’s list for 3 years on the row; I received the Montgomery College General Honors Scholarship; and I rewarded with the Women’s and Gender Studies Program Award for Excellence and Research; and the Dr. Harry Harden, Jr. Student Academic Excellence Award. Finally I got my Associates of Arts Degree in International Studies with honors. In January 2015, I am going for my Bachelor’s Degree in Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland. I am determined to finish school successfully so when I go back to Congo, I would be ready to apply everything I would learn.
I want to encourage an international student like me who might read this and is in the situation that I once experienced when I got in the United States. Do not give up! There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Also, everything happens for a reason, so coming to the United States is definitely a good one because this is the land of opportunities. You can do anything you want as long as you put your mind to it.

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