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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Coming to Carleton from 7908 miles away

Coming to Carleton from Kigali⁠—which is 7908 miles away⁠—was like being dropped on an island in the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival, the warm welcome from the colorful trees and the green grass made me think, “Oh, this looks similar to what I just left at home”. I was curious but overwhelmed by the many buildings and different doors—I wondered if I would be able to adapt quickly. Students were busy as always, walking fast to different destinations. I was worried that I would not be able to keep up with everything I had just seen on the first day of school. But as most of us experience, Carleton welcomes you with an aura of peace. The first time I walked through the Bald Spot, all my worries were overcome by peace. I became certain that I was in the right place at the right time.

Like anyone who is studying abroad here, I was excited to be in the United States, immersing myself in the new culture; however, I was also afraid of not being good enough to meet the same standards as American students. My African accent was a barrier for me. I felt like I didn’t have enough English-speaking skills. In the first few days, I kept quiet so that people wouldn’t feel offended by the different ways I pronounce some words—but with time, people were interested in knowing more about me and where I come from, which encouraged me to talk to them. 

My expectations of college professors were completely different from what I found at Carleton. I used to think that professors were unapproachable and mean. With Carleton professors, it’s different. Professors love and respect their students. They are committed to helping each student succeed, and they want to understand students’ opinions and questions. I used to think that I would be unnoticed in their classes, but now I find myself chatting with them endlessly. 

Carleton is a small community where you will always find people who will approach you and make you feel at home, whatever personality you have. Making friends is not difficult as long as you want them, because students at Carleton respect each other’s background and varying opinions. Most of the students are humble and approachable, which is really important, especially for someone new to the environment. Carleton has many resources for international students, and you can easily find help all around campus.

As an international student, the basic challenges you face are weather and food because, well, it is winter. For the first few months, you are going to freeze and be wearing two pairs of pants and three jackets. After the first snow, you will be running in the snow to feel the taste of white hail coming from the sky—for the people coming from the equatorial region, this is the time to live in the Christmas movies. Slowly, you get used to it and start learning to ice skate and ski, like I did. I am now a lover of snow, honestly.

When it comes to culture shock, I was used to living in a very conservative community and attended all-women middle and high schools. This was my first time attending a mixed, non-Christian school. At some point, I wanted to explore how a mixed community worked. I wanted to prove to myself if I was smarter than boys or if they were naturally smarter than women—but I found out that they are normal people like women. I enjoy having random conversations with them, analyzing how they think and understanding topics concerning gender equality. 

I would say that living at Carleton is not hard, generally speaking, if you are academically committed to your studies and seek help whenever you need it. Everything seems to go your way as time passes by. I would say that I love being at Carleton College and I don’t regret the decision I made to come here. I would like to encourage other international students to relax and take their time. Everything will work out eventually.

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