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International Students -- Pauline Van Aelst, international exchange student from Plantijn Hogeschool in Antwerp, Belgium, shares her experiences at UNCG
Pauline with students
“Congratulations, you are accepted as an international exchange student at UNCG, and you will have the opportunity to work at Doris Henderson Newcomers School!” These words are graphed in my memory. I will never forget the moment that my heart almost stopped beating; I was selected over ten other applicants to attend UNCG. At that point I already knew that it was going to be a wonderful experience.
Being an international exchange student means that you are exotic to a lot of American students. Everybody is so nice to you, and they are really interested in you as a person. This feeling is something really special. It is hard to describe, but I think it gives you just that little sparkle, that little extra bit of confidence to make the most out of the experience.
Living on campus in the International House has three major benefits. First of all, I am learning about American culture, especially from my roommate who is from Charlotte, NC. Clichés from movies are becoming real or they are put into perspective. The second benefit is that I am learning a lot about all the different cultures and nationalities of my fellow students from around the world. Everybody has their own stories. These stories we share at the Friday Fest where two nationalities present on their country and culture. It opens your eyes about the world. It got my attention that I actually don’t know a lot about different cultures and countries, but I know now that I will learn about them while travelling to all those amazing places in the future. The third benefit is that I am experiencing personal growth. It is difficult to explain but when you are away from home you can really be yourself. I could start all over again because nobody knew me here.
I can tell more about the things I have learned in the months I have been here but I think it is also important to tell that just living on a campus is great. ‘I am having the time of my life!’ is one of the clichés that is definitely true.
Three days a week I am working at the Newcomers School as a social work intern. I am part of the Global Work with Immigrant Kids (GWIK) program. I assist with the elementary classes and the high school art classes. The school is for children who have recently arrived to the United States as refugees or immigrants. The students receive education in English, mathematics, science and psychological art. All the teachers and staff members try to get the students ready to go to a traditional public school. I can relate with these students since I am also away from home, but for me it is a choice and for them it is a search for a better life.
I am blessed to be here and I will take all of these experiences back home to Belgium. Go Spartans!
To learn more about the Doris Henderson Newcomers School visit: www.gcsnc.com/education/school/school.php