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New School, New life, New Challenges

By: Blanca Esther Romero Pino - Fulbright Faculty Development scholar from Venezuela and currently a Master’s degree candidate in Linguistics and Applied Linguistics at Arizona State University.

Coming to the United States was a great adventure for me. I had never left my country and suddenly, here I was, leaving my family to move to a place I had never been before, with a different language and culture. The fear was there, as well as the excitement, but I was looking forward to this new experience.

The first length of my trip took me to Bloomington, Indiana for the Fulbright Gateway Orientation. I fell in love with the city, and with the campus at Indiana University. In this gateway program, I had the chance to meet the most wonderful people from different countries. I learned about their cultures, and tried to share mine with them. I especially loved meeting other Latino brothers and sisters who were also there, representing the best each of their countries had to offer. Although I was the only Venezuelan in the group, I felt as if all of us came from the same place. The sense of friendship and unity in our group made it rather special. I am glad to say that I made some very good friends in that gateway. I was also lucky that four other Fulbrighters from my gateway were coming to Arizona State University. I would not be alone!

At Arizona State University campus

I started my graduate program at Arizona State University (ASU), Tempe campus in the Fall of 2016. The new environment created a bit of a shock for me. Even though I already had a graduate degree from a Venezuelan university, the different dynamics in the graduate programs here in the United States took me by surprise. In all honesty, there were moments when I felt I did not belong, that there had been a mistake, and I was not good enough for my program, and that I was not worthy of being a Fulbright scholar. Fortunately, I was not alone. Other Fulbrighters and international students shared the same concerns, and we found ourselves supporting each other, and encouraging each other to keep going.

My brother once wrote the sentence “Keep moving forward” on his Skype status. I found myself thinking about it more and more, and I decided to take it as my mantra. Whenever I felt like giving up, whenever the stress became too much, I would tell myself: “Keep moving forward, no matter what. Don’t stop. Keep. Moving. Forward”.

And I have found myself repeating that mantra so many times that I am considering getting it tattooed on my arm, as a reminder (I have not done it yet, but soon). Because thetruth is, there are moments in our lives in which we feel that we cannot keep going. We feel overwhelmed with schoolwork, we miss our families, we are in a different environment, a differentculture from ours. It can become too much for any human being. I realized that I could not overcome these feelings on my own. I needed a support system. Thankfully I had my friend Milan.

Milan, a mountain of a man from Slovakia has the biggest heart that anyone can imagine. He is calm and quiet, whereas I am loud and feisty. We met at the orientation in Bloomington, and we became like brother and sister in Arizona. He said I was his “big” sister, which everyone laughed at since Milan is 6’5” and I am 4’8” tall.  Taking time for a coffee in the evenings, or dinner over the weekends helped me relax and recharge my batteries, so to speak.

The latter brings me to another strategy I found to cope with stress: take time for yourself. We all have papers to write and deadlines to fulfill. But we also need to take the time to release tension and stress. I find that sometimes my brain simply refuses to work, that even constructing a simple, coherent sentence is a struggle. When that happens, I just stop, get up and go do something else. I work out, or watch a movie, or read a non-academic book (I am a fan of the urban fantasy genre).

The trick to graduate school is to find the balance necessary to have good academic performance without sacrificing your personal well-being. School will be there, deadlines will be there, the stress and worries will be there waiting for you. It is better to face these struggles with a relaxed mind and an energized body. And remember, “Keep Moving Forward!”

Group photo with Fulbright scholars in front of the White House during the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar on Justice in Education

Disclaimer: This blog is not an official Fulbright Program site. The views expressed on this site are entirely those of the author and do not represent the views of the Fulbright Program, the U.S. Department of State or any of its partner organizations.

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