My Individualized Studies class

This semester is very busy for me because I am taking 7 classes, cumulatively worth 17 credits. I really enjoy some of my classes, others rouse my interest, and still others I barely tolerate.

In Nigeria, throughout my education I just took classes that I was told I needed to take. There were different collections of classes based on whether you were going to pursue a career in the sciences, business or the arts. But there wasn’t real freedom to take a mixture of classes that interested you. When I got to JMU and found out that you get to pick your own classes and form your schedule (after you leave the ISC), I was overwhelmed with the number of options available. But now I relish the freedom and creative permission students have to pursue what interests them. It makes learning quite enjoyable when you have a say in what you want to learn!

A very helpful class I am taking right now is called IS 202: Orientation to Career and Life Planning.  It is a 1-credit class that helps students see what they enjoy, their personalities and skills, what major/career path they are interested in, etc. Some specific content of the class includes having access to career resources, enabling students to develop informed career decision-making skills, self-awareness and life planning. It is an 8-week class and we meet once a week.

This class is very important for me because it is showing me a lot about my personality, interests and skills. As an international student studying in the United States, the tuition is really expensive, so I want to make sure that I am getting a degree in an area I enjoy and will excel in. A lot of students don’t know what they want to do with their lives, which major to pick, where their interests lie and this class aids students to find out these things.

So far, we have explored all the available majors offered in JMU at the undergraduate level and narrowed down our choices; we have taken Myer-Briggs personality tests that help us to understand how each of us is predisposed to think and experience the world; we have set up LinkedIn profiles and learnt about networking and preparing for jobs in the near future,we have gotten to do exercises that help us see our top work values etc. It has been quite a helpful class thus far and I recommend it to anyone who is unsure of what they want to major in :)

Graduating from James Madison University

 

Graduating from University is a tremendous accomplishment. It has been 4 years since the time I first walked in the doors of JMU. I can proudly say that I accomplished successfully my Undergrad education as a Duke. On May 10th I walked with other science majors (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geology etc…)

I have to say that this was one of the most beautiful days of my life. I had some family members over who made the trip from Maryland. Parents, professors and friends made of this day the most memorable day for me. I graduated with Magna Cum Laude and I was also recognized for being part of Phi Beta Kappa, the most prestigious honor society in the US. Even though this is not it for me yet, I want to congratulate myself for making it through. For me and my fellow international students, coming to a prestigious university and studying in a foreign language is not an easy task. All it takes is dedication, courage. I also think what helped me during my undergrad career is having a goal in life. My goal is to make it into medical school save lives. I believe having a goal in life makes one have a driving force that pushes him/her forward.

Graduation is a special moment in one’s lifetime. From the day you graduate you enter a different phase of life. Becoming a person with a degree does not only mean having your name on a piece of paper, it means that you are now equipped to make a change in the world and make a difference in people’s life. About one third of the American population holds a bachelor degree. My freshman year, I had doubts about being able to make it through and I’m sure any international student would say that too. At some point in my freshman year I even thought of just going back to a French institution and have an education in my native tongue (French) which would be easier for me. I’m so glad I stayed. Otherwise none of this wouldn’t have happened. That also showed me that in life we do not have to step down when we encounter an obstacle. We have to fight to have our dreams come true. Having ambitions and dreams make one have a purpose in life. At my graduation ceremony I remember the speaker talked about a quote that I still remember. The quote was something like that: “In life, successful people are the way they are because they stood on shoulders of giants”. This is a powerful quote and I believe is the key to success.

I also have to admit that I was a little sad. This is finally the end of my chapter in James Madison University. I am so thankful for the friends I’ve made here, the professors who guided me, the beautiful campus we have and so much more. This may be the end of my Undergrad career but I still have a bigger one ahead of me. I am now in the application for medical school and also preparing to take my MCAT (test of medical school admission). To me education never ends, I will get as much education as I can because I believe in a quote an old wise man (Ricky) told us while I went for my conference in Nashville (Tennessee): “PEACE stands for Pursuing Education Always Creates  Elevation.

International Student in America – Mapping your Routes

In January from 24-26, I attended MAUVSA ADVANCE CONFERENCE III. It’s a three days conference about hosted by MAUVSA (Mid-Atlantic Union of Vietnamese Student Association), a cultural organization which “seeks to serve, empower, and unify the Vietnamese American community, the VSAs of the Mid-Atlantic region through inspiring young Vietnamese Americans, fostering cultural awareness, promoting social justice and leadership, and being the voice of their members” (mauvsa.org) More than 9 schools from DC, Maryland, and Virginia such as UVA, GWU, VT, Georgetown U, UMBC and others gathered in Front Royal, VA to take part in this wonderful event. This year’s conference theme focuses on Vietnamese American young adults looking into their cultural roots, gaining a stronger sense of self to be better equipped in mapping their future.

Being a freshman, it was my first time attending MAUVSA ADVANCE CONFERENCE. Together with my friends we signed up for the conference, booked a hotel room at Holiday Inn where the conference took place, packed our stuff, and set out to Front Royal. As it’s all settled down, we changed into business casual clothes for the opening ceremony. Many interesting guest speakers were invited to come. ILryong Moon – a professor at Harvard University – gave a speech on his own determination to succeed as an immigrant, shared his struggles and comfort zone in the U.S. and what it takes to be a leader especially for a person of ethnic minority, and what being a minority leader means to community. This year there were the most number of attendees at the conference than were in any previous years – up to 226 students from different universities. James Madison University VSA once again hold the title of the highest number of students with 30+ attendees. After the opening ceremony, the rest of the evening was full with fun games, ice-breakers, laughter and joys. My team the FAVE 5 came third in a competition. It was a memorable night of networking and making new friends.

The second day of the conference was all about workshops. It was really involving and fascinating to participate in these workshops with great topics and incredible speakers. We learnt about the lion dance in “Lion Dance Past, Present & Future” workshop. The ”Effective Communications is NOT Optional” workshop presented useful tips on how you can improve your skills in written, oral and non-verbal communications and helped to assess what you’re strong in and what you’re not, and how you can take steps to address those areas. In ”Purpose-Driven Leadership” interactive workshop, we discussed what it means to be a purpose-driven leader, learnt about what separates the great organizations and great leaders from the not-so-great and were shared with basic understanding of how we can inspire people to act. In the evening, the conference ballroom was brightened up with beautiful people and their shinning personalities. A great gala-concert and delicious dinner for all the participants was accompanied with a rich amusing entertainment program. Famous FreeStyle Crew and Maximus Regaldo provided us with magnificent catchy dance moves; my friends from James Madison University – the music trio – filled up the atmosphere with their soulful music; and, of course,“DJ Knom” who played on the music beats for the after-party. MA-ALL-DAY!

The morning after I was a little bit sad, not only because it was the last day of the conference, but also because I had to say “goodbyes” to all these wonderful awesome people I just met. Everyone was wearing a conference T-shirt for a group picture. Though it’s a bitter-sweet feeling for everyone, we promised to stay in touch and were looking forward to the next meeting. I am so thankful for this amazing opportunity that Mauvsa Advanced Conference III gave me. MAC III successful completed its mission of “providing attendees with an insightful and inspiring weekend of engaging key note speakers; relevant workshops; popular entertainment; invaluable opportunities to connect and network; and to be a part of a philanthropic mission.”

Applying to JMU through Study Group

My brother Herald has joined me here at JMU this Spring 2014 semester as a freshman. When he graduated from his Degree Foundation Programme in May/June 2013, I encouraged him to apply to JMU through Study Group. I was really excited when he got accepted :) “Now there will be two Adoweis on JMU’s campus!”, I thought. :D

I advice any international student wanting to improve their English  and simultaneously begin their studies here at JMU to apply through Study Group (studygroup.com). Study Group International is a  company specializing in the teaching of English to international students, and in courses aimed at preparing international students for university-level education in five Anglophone countries across the world.

When I was applying for colleges in the U.S, I found all the colleges had rigorous application processes, especially for international students. I had to obtain and mail original documents all the way from Nigeria, not knowing how long it would take my documents to reach their destination and whether they would be returned to me safely.

One day, my mum was searching online and she found Study Group. We decided to apply for JMU and we only needed to scan my documents. We did not even pay an application fee like we had to for all the other colleges I had applied to. It seemed too good to be true. After a few weeks, we got my acceptance letter! Study Group has been a huge support to my academic success here at JMU. This is why I encouraged my brother to apply through Study Group to come to JMU.

He is majoring in Computer Engineering. He is 17 years old, which a lot of people say is really young for college.  He lives on campus in the Village. Before this semester, international students either lived off campus or in Rockingham Hall because there usually weren’t any rooms left in the halls closer to the campus. But this semester, there have been changes to the way things are done and international students get to live right on campus, a privilege I told my brother not to take lightly! Having the international students very close to the campus mixes them with American students; they are able to get involved with activities, make friends and practice their English! :)

It is really nice to just hang out with him, ask him how he’s doing, help him with little things and generally play the role of the knowledgeable big sister, showing him the ropes of college life in the United States ;) . I tell him things like “Yes, it’s Rose Library but everyone calls it ‘ECL’. If you call it Rose, people will know you’re a freshman!” or “Eat at Festival; there’s Chinese food!” I am trying to get him involved with organizations on campus but he is very unaccustomed to the weather and refuses to brave the cold unless it’s for food, classes or church. I empathize with him because I remember how I despised the cold when I first came. Oh spring, come quickly!!!

 

Student Life – International Festival in Harrisonburg

I still remember my first impression of Harrisonburg. It was a cloudy and windy day, when I got off the smallest plane – that can barely fit 10 people– I have ever been on. Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport was also the smallest airport I have ever visited. There were only 10 of us, passengers, a ticket controller, and a shuttle bus driver in the airport, who was kind enough to give us a ride to Harrisonburg. Always lived in an urban area, Harrisonburg seemed to be such a lifeless and deserted place at first. As an international student, I moved in earlier than other James Madison University students. That’s probably the reason why it felt so empty in the town. As a school week started, thousands of students filled up the James Madison University beautiful campus. Until last week Harrisonburg for me consisted only of James Madison University students and their families. Its borders started from Walmart and Valley mall and ended at Memorial hall. I had never actually been to the city’s downtown, except for my friends’ apartment maybe, but still I had no idea what Harrisonburg and its local citizens were. Fortunately, I finally got a chance to take a look at this city’s community.

The word "Love'' in different languages at Harrisonburg Festival

We celebrated James Madison University International week, with a theme “Borders and Boundaries.” The events throughout the week included such events as the student debate on a serious problem of a harm and benefits of US wiretapping, which I found really involving and useful, the culture parade of various students organizations, a music concert, study abroad fair, photo contest, and a world cup soccer tournament, which I participated in as a part of VietChamps team. The highlight of the week was definitely Harrisonburg International Festival on September 28, 2013 – “a celebration honoring the diverse cultures and backgrounds that make up the local community”(Harrisonburg-international-festival.org). It was my first Harrisonburg cultural experience. Before coming here I stereo-typically thought that Harrisonburg consisted 99% of whites; this festival, however, broke all my expectations. I learnt how actually diverse this community is.

The International Festival, which took place at Virginia’s beautiful Hillandale Park, provided a friendly forum which allowed people to learn and share each other’s cultural and linguistic values. It offers so much wonderful things, such as cuisines from all over the world, music, dance, a multi-language area that featured traditional folk art, and many other. As a member of Vietnamese Students Association (VSA), I came out to the Fashion Show of International Cultural Dress, one of events of this festival, to support my members and learn about other cultures’ traditional costumes. The colorfulness of these stunning costumes brightened up the atmosphere of the whole festival. One of the performers, my friend, borrowed my Ao Dai, which I myself haven’t ever worn before. It looked gorgeous on her; the snow white dress with the patterns of peachy pink lotuses worn with bright pink pantaloons perfectly represents the pure flawless beauty of a Vietnamese woman. I really enjoyed this magnificent show. After this, my friends and I went to have some food. There were delicious drools-dropping delicacies from different countries, such as Mexico, India, Brazil, Argentina, and Italia. I had a refreshing Taiwanese boba tea, also known as bubble tea, a delicious mix of tea with exotic flavors and/or creamy milk filled with boba, sweet “bubbles” made of tapioca or juice, and ate some sticky rice cake with mango. The food was probably the best part of the festival. I also enjoyed a fascinating show of African music, which reflected a playful and cheerful spirit of the festival. I bought some exclusive bracelets from the World Bazaar of unique hand-made and imported art and souvenirs. Walking around from one corner to another, it felt like as if I were traveling from one country to another. The drawings of nearly 50 flags on the asphalt left a huge impression on me. As I found my country’s flag I felt proud in some way and delighted, that my little country was recognized and included. This was a wonderful experience that I would never have in my hometown. Although there are also many cultural activities and festivals in Russia, there is no such a friendly tight-knit community as it is here in Harrisonburg.

Harrisonburg International Festival was not only a language opportunity, but also a great educational learning opportunity to share different opinions for enhancing Harrisonburg’s intercultural community and engaging global concerns. This Festival supports different cultures’ awareness and their contributions to the society. Thanks to this experience I get to know Harrisonburg and its community, which I am now a part of, better. It was an incredible way to spend a great time with your friends and learn with a pleasure. I am looking forward to the next festival, and can’t wait to be a part of it next year.

My first concert ever!

The concert I went for was the “Passion: Let the Future Begin” Tour featuring Kristian Stanfill.  It was held on Thursday, October 24th. The tour goes all over the country and this year was its first time coming to Harrisonburg. JMU was privileged to host the event.  It was held in the Memorial Hall Auditorium from 7 to 9 pm. The doors were opened at 6:40 pm and people got their seats on a first-come-first-serve basis. Tickets for the concert were $10 for general admission before the day of the concert and $12 at the door on the day of the concert. However, the tickets sold out before the day of the concert arrived so there were none left to sell at the door. There were more than a thousand people in the auditorium.

The event was sponsored by DUU and Aletheia and promoted by the Shenandoah Valley Justice Initiative (SVJI), a student organization that strives to end human trafficking through advocacy and prayer. The main purposes of the event were to enjoy a night of worship and to raise awareness of the injustice of human trafficking. According to SVJI, human trafficking is now the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world.  Approximately 27 million people are enslaved today worldwide. Human trafficking (sexual, domestic, industrial, agricultural) is a $32 billion per year industry, bringing in more revenue than the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB combined. People were encouraged to give donations that were to benefit the Shenandoah Valley Justice Initiative.

Initially I wasn’t planning on going for the concert but my friend who had bought a ticket had too much schoolwork to go, so she offered me her ticket and I gladly accepted it.  When I came into the entrance I stood in line and someone scanned my ticket and let me in. Another person put a stamp on my hand to indicate that I had bought a ticket.  I didn’t realize the concert was such a big deal until I saw how many people were already there waiting for the doors to open. When the doors opened, I got a seat and settled in to enjoy the concert.

It was an evening of wonderful worship with Kristian Stanfill and the Passion band. I really enjoyed the singing. Most of the songs were popular contemporary Christian songs that almost everybody was familiar with and we sang along and worshiped God with enthusiasm. Everything ( especially the lights effects) was new to me because it was my first concert ever.  The sound was very loud and the lights were very flashy, moved with the rhythm of whatever song was being sung and changed colors. It had a very nice effect. In between the concert, a speaker came up and talked for about twenty minutes. He then asked if there were people who wanted to give their lives to Jesus and led them in a prayer. Overall, the concert was so much fun and I was so glad I went!!! There is always an ongoing stream of activities to partake from on campus. We should take some time to explore what this campus has to offer. You never know; just like me, you could be in for a lovely surprise :)

Off campus student housing at James Madison University

In my first semester at James Madison University (Spring 2013), I lived at Rockingham Hall – on-campus housing for international students. JMU students who know Rockingham Hall know that though it is technically an “on campus” residence, it isn’t exactly on the campus. I need not debate concerning this issue; the fact that one needs to take a bus to get there is enough evidence! Also, when living on campus, it is mandatory that one purchases a meal plan. Though there are quite a number of buses that go to Rockingham, they don’t run on the weekends, so trying to get on campus to eat during the weekend was kind of a pain. I felt as if I was constantly strategizing which bus to take and when, just so I could get food to eat! That said, it was a very comfortable residence, my room had a lovely view and I had a very pleasant roommate, so I enjoyed it for the most part.

Where you choose to live off campus is important. When choosing where to live toward the end of last Spring, I had a long list of criteria that wherever I would choose needed to meet. It needed to be safe; I shouldn’t fear for my safety if I were coming back late from the library or class. It needed to not  be too far off campus (because I don’t have a car) and it also needed to have a bus stop (so I could easily take the bus).  It needed to be a relatively quiet environment (not too noisy or party-ish over the weekends). It needed to be close to a supermarket or stores, so I could easily buy groceries. It needed to not be too expensive, and the list went on! (Yes, I’m very picky; sue me! :D )

Off campus housing for James Madison University students

Living room at my off campus apartment

I now live off campus at a residence called The Commons (And yes, it satisfied all my criteria :) ).  At The Commons, each apartment has four rooms and two bathrooms, then the washer and dryer compartment, sitting room and kitchen. A lot of off campus apartments are the same way but the number of rooms and bathrooms vary. One perk of living off campus is that I can eat whatever I want because I get to cook my own food. On the other hand, it is not as convenient as simply going to PC Dukes or E Hall to get food, which I did when I lived on campus!

I have three roommates and they are awesome! Fun fact: the french word for roommate is “colocataire” (I’m taking French 101 this semester ;) ) I was determined to live with people I knew because living with random people for a whole year doesn’t seem wise to me, though it has worked out for some people I know who have done so. One of my roommates is a fellow international student  with whom I was already good friends; another is part of the same Christian student organization (called Campus Crusade for Christ, or Cru for short) that I’m part of. My third roommate was friends with my roommate who also goes to Cru, so that’s how we all came together! I used to share a room when I was on campus, but now I have my own room and I love that! ( I guess we’re technically “housemates”, since we have our own rooms).

Baking cookies in my off campus apartment

Cookies, anyone?

My roommates and I call our apartment “The Girl KAVE”, KAVE being each of our first name’s initials combined (cool, right?! P.S: I’m the “V” :) ) We play games together and bake one another cookies and cakes and we currently have pink balloons hanging on the ceiling in our sitting room! So far, I am really enjoying the off campus life <3

Bringing my culture to the USA as an international student

International students at James Madison UniversityThe International Week at James Madison University, a celebration of the diversity we international students bring to the University, just ended. It started on Monday, September 23rd and ended on  Friday 27th. On Saturday, the 18th Annual Harrisonburg International Festival was held  from noon – 6:00 p.m at Hillandale Park, Harrisonburg. The Harrisonburg International Festival brings together a diverse variety of performing, visual, and culinary arts from around the world and from the local community. There are usually mouth-watering delicacies, music, dance, creative folk art, and intercultural learning opportunities.

I was too busy to go to the Harrisonburg International Festival, but I did get to participate in another interesting cultural event. I go to an African church here in Harrisonburg called The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). It is a very big international church whose headquarters are in Nigeria. The parish here in Harrisonburg is called “Jesus House Parish”. Last Sunday, we had our Cultural Day Service. Each member of the congregation dressed up in a traditional attire from their nation to come for the service. The service was held from 10 am to 12:30 pm. During the praise and worship, various languages from the countries represented in the church were sang. When a particular country’s language was sang, all the people from the country went to the front of the pulpit and danced and sang along. It was a very beautiful experience. Countries that were represented were Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Congo, Haiti, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Kenya, Cameroon and Togo. There were also a couple of Americans who came to see some African culture.

After the music, the pastor got one person  from each of the nationalities present to go to the front of the pulpit as a representative of their nation. Then we collectively prayed for all the nations, for God’s blessings to be upon them, for there to be peace in them and for God to give their leaders wisdom to rule their countries well. After the service, there was a buffet of various African dishes such as beef stew, puff puff, dodo, fried rice, jollof rice, spinach stew, fufu, peanut soup and many more. We ate to our hearts’ content! It was wonderful to come together and display our various beautiful and colorful attires and cultures. It showed that we are proud of our roots and though we are from different countries in Africa and far away from home, we still celebrate and hold fast to our customs, cultures and African heritage.

Settling into the routine of classes at James Madison University

James Madison University in the USA

Studying at James Madison University

On the first day of any class, the typical college student’s goal is to get a feel of whether she/he will enjoy and understand the class, to gauge the level of difficulty (and work) involved  in the class and to evaluate the professor’s personality and methodology. This may take more than one class meeting. Being in the third week of classes, by now, most students have finalized adjustments to their schedules.  The deadline for adding and dropping classes (September 3rd) has passed and the Fall 2013 semester at James Madison University has started in earnest.

My classes and extracurricular activities have definitely been keeping me on my toes. According to The Free Dictionary, to keep somebody on their toes means “to force someone to continue giving all their attention and energy to what they are doing”. For some reason, it’s taken me a while to acknowledge that the summer break is long over and the time to work has come. I’m in a class right now where I felt we were simply “studying the syllabus” for two weeks. I thought, “Wow! This seems like quite an easy going, slow-paced class!” In reality, we’ve gone over three chapters and I have a quiz due this week, which I haven’t begun to study for!!! Now, we all know not to do this, yet we cannot help but fall into the deceptive trap of procrastinating. For me, it’s that notion that “school has only just begun”, “I want to hang out with my friends”, “there are so many fun activities to partake in”, “I still have time”, etc. Whether it’s assigned readings, homework, revision or mini quizzes, I personally find myself completely unmotivated to keep up with schoolwork until it is absolutely the last minute! Then of course, I panic, frantically trying to “shove information down my throat” so as to get an A. If I don’t get an A, I will be disappointed; yet I know what I need to do to get it and feel unwilling to do it.

I believe we all struggle with this. It’s a matter of discipline, setting priorities, managing time wisely and being willing to work hard. It’s important to get involved with various organizations and extracurricular activities, but your academic performance comes first. I’ve had to miss a couple of activities that I attend on a regular basis so I can stay in my room and study. To get the best results, you need to be willing to put in your best efforts. Trust me, the hard work pays off in the end!

 

Summer at James Madison University

For me this summer was the first semester in such beautiful place as James Madison University. What I could noticed from the first glance is that this is really relaxing time, on the one hand. On the other, side, it is time when you may work hard to gain credits. Also, the good thing about summer semester is that last just 12 weeks; for 4 weeks less than the regular semester. In addition, if you like to be in a quiet atmosphere, this is a perfect time! Due to significantly less students are taking classes during summer, campus seems empty: library, buses, Starbucks – everything! Not just campus the whole town looks like a ghost town. In the very beginning, everything seemed so weird. I grow up in the big city where everybody was rushing 24 hours all the week long, and in Harrisonburg everything was so quiet and peaceful.

As I said before it was pretty quiet but even then life in JMU did not stop. There were a lot of events that you could attend. Not as much as during fall, but still you would not be bored. Just take as an example camping that Office of International Programs has organized. For me it was incredible experience since I have never ever did it before.

However, understanding that it is adorable place came a little bit later. When I just came here I was so stressed, the reason for that is fear that I will be out of university life. The main goal for me was not just stay at my room with closed door all the time. Frankly saying, I did it for the first one or two weeks of my staying at the university. But then I accumulated all of my energy and went out of my little world that was bounded by four walls. And guess what, I discovered the whole bunch of new things that were happening around me.

Right now it is my second and last semester in International Study Center, however, I had opportunity to pick JMU class, where during lecture you will see about 120 students; comparing with 15-20 students in ISC. Honestly, I was shocked but it is a really good experience, from my point view.

Overall, it can be stated that this summer was the best summer that I ever had in my life! In my opinion, it is a bit strange time to start classes, but it is the best time for that. With the beginning of the fall semester it is really easy to get lost with this enormously huge amount of students.