This article is part of the 2023 September International Student Perspectives Collection.
As I reflect on my journey as an international student, I have realized that this journey is more than just pursuing a degree; it is about personal growth, too. Leaving behind my family to embark on my academic journey in a foreign land was a difficult decision to make. Having arrived in the United States in the pivotal Spring 2020 semester when the pandemic had begun to unfold presented me with a unique set of challenges than what international students usually face. During this time, most colleges, including mine, were forced to transition to fully remote instruction and on-campus housing was closed. The daunting task of adapting to new instructional modalities and new culture were hurdles that I had to overcome.
My initial days in America presented me with lots of boundaries. Everyone had begun to practice a new culture, social distancing. I thought I had entered a world full of isolation and anxiety. The challenge of adapting to an academic environment where all my instructors and classmates were virtual ones seemed like an irony to me. In the supermarket, I had to keenly look out for marks that said 6ft apart so that I didn’t cross my boundaries. Not every seat at the restaurant or on the bus could be used; I always had to double-check to make sure I was not violating the seating rules. In fact, everything around me was about rules and precautions. Despite the dual challenges of an unanticipated outbreak of a pandemic and the usual adjustments international student face upon arrival in the United States, one important lesson I learned was resilience.
Amidst these times of uncertainty, my career aspirations evolved. I had the privilege to serve as a contact tracer during the Covid-19 pandemic. My task involved following up with positive cases and their close contacts. Being at the forefront of the Covid-19 pandemic, I developed an ultimate passion for healthcare. I want to pursue a career in medicine. As a contact tracer, I came across different people with diverse backgrounds and identities, and I began to experience the new America. Each person I interacted with gave me a unique sense of cultural experience. This role also exposed me to some healthcare disparities among different groups of people in the United States. With the desire to improve healthcare accessibility, I am driven to serve the underprivileged and marginalized populations as a healthcare provider in the future.
I began to have a better experience as COVID-19 cases declined, and things were back to normal. On-ground academic work had resumed, and engaging with my peers from various parts of the globe gave me a comprehensive view of the world. An integral part of being an international student is getting to learn about the rich traditions, beliefs, and perspectives of other students. From engaging in traditional games to sharing meals with other international students, I have come to appreciate the importance of diversity in any academic setting. I found classroom discussions more meaningful as they gave everyone the opportunity to share their unique experiences. These interactions gave me a sense of belonging to my academic community. With time, I have come across helpful instructors who have contributed to my academic achievements. Striving for academic excellence while being away from home could be challenging, but with the support of people around you, it can be achieved.
In conclusion, my journey as an international student has transformed me into a better person. It has been a journey of personal growth, career discovery, and cultural exploration. Each challenge I faced along the way has forged my character and prepared me to withstand greater challenges I may encounter in my career. I am committed to using the lessons learned and the knowledge accrued to serve my community.
Bernard Ofosuhene is a senior health science student at Anna Maria College in Paxton, Massachusetts. Originally from Accra, Ghana, Bernard is wrapping up his studies at AMC and is graduating in December 2023. He is currently engaged in Clinical Research at UMass Medical School and is planning on applying to both medical school and MD/PhD programs in the US with the ultimate goal of becoming a physician-scientist.