The American dream! Like many foreign students, I always wished to study in the United States. My thoughts and feelings about this country were so big that I was impatient to come to this country.
In 2003, after a long flight, I landed in Jacksonville, Fla., where some representatives from the University of North Florida (UNF) were waiting for me. I got my luggage, and those representatives gave me a ride to the university campus from the airport. It was already evening. When I looked at the city, I could see a lot of street lights, busy cars and, of course, several police cars along the streets, just like in American movies. I was really impressed.
I went to my campus room. After looking at the room, I saw that the room looked kind of “naked”. The beds had no covers, sheets or pillows. I said to myself “What the heck?” because I was not used to this situation when I was studying in Germany. So, as I didn’t have any bed stuff in my room and there was nothing to eat for next day, one of the international center representatives took me to a store. The name of store was Wal-Mart, which I liked from the first time, because one could just go in and buy everything that he or she needed.
The prices were not that bad compared with the ones in Europe. But the only thing that challenged my shopping a little bit was the measurement scales. Now I had to distinguish between pounds and kilograms. It was hard for me to figure out how many pounds were equal to one kilo. Well, I decided to ask one of the sellers. However, that person had no idea about European measurement scales. Fortunately I could handle it myself.
I woke up early in the morning and began to explore the campus and university. The campus green was just amazing. Also, the university was totally different from the ones where I used to study. Sometimes I had to ask unfamiliar students about the directions, and as my English was not that perfect I was trying somehow to understand them.
Days passed and orientation day for international students began. I was kind of curious about that day, because I was expecting to meet some international students and get to know my international adviser and other workers of the international center. From the first hours of our meeting, the international center representatives began to discuss very important things with us. I liked the part where they were telling us that, as we are in the United States, we would hear a lot of the “What’s up?” phrase. Honestly, I had no idea what that meant. It was kind of necessary to know about that phrase, which would help to communicate in “the American way”. Then they talked about the American university grading system, which was also totally new and important for me.
Orientation finished some weeks later, and classes began. I have to say that the education system is totally different from the European one. From the first classes I learned that we would have to do a lot of projects, which I had never done before. We’d also have frequent tests, pop quizzes, written midterm and final exams, etc. All these things required a lot of hard work and effort, for which I was not really ready.
On my first test, I got a D. When I first got that grade I told my teacher that this was not my test, because I could never have expected that I would get a D. I got really upset, went to my teacher and asked her how she could give me such a bad grade, because I had never gotten such a bad grade in my university life. But she told me that, like most foreign students, I was having problems.
To tell the truth, I had a language barrier, which was my first excuse. My second was that I didn’t have deep enoughknowledge of accounting, because it involved totally new scientific terms that I had never learned about. But my accounting teacher helped me a lot; if I had any questions in exams, she would clarify them for me. Thanks to her I improved my grade from a D to C then to B and even to A. I told myself, “Wow, I did it,” and my teacher was also happy about it. I finished the course with the final grade of B.
However, I was getting really bored with Jacksonville, because everything was monotonous. I used to have the same life every day, going to the same university every day. As a result, all these things made me kind of apathetic. I decided to go to another city as soon as I got my Bachelor of Business Administration degree. And the best way to do that would be by getting a Master’s degree. As a matter of fact, the summer term was my last semester at UNF, and I was accepted to American University in Washington, D.C. I was really happy because I heard a lot about this city and I always wanted to go there. In fact, doing my Master’s degree would make it even easier.
I graduated from UNF with honors. During my last days, I had to say goodbye to my friends and my professors, pack my stuff, and give some of my books to university library as a gift, so that I could leave some good memories about my time at UNF. My friends were really sad about my departure, because we had gotten along well with each other. But nothing could be done, because I had already made my final decision. However, I promised them to keep in touch often. I can never forget my friends.
A new life was waiting for me in D.C. To tell the truth, the city is much more beautiful and interesting than Jacksonville. And one more thing is that while studying at UNF, I never met any student from my home country, Azerbaijan. But as soon as I came to D.C., I met some really good Azerbaijani students. I was very happy to speak to them. Unfortunately these students had to leave soon, but I was able to find new students from Azerbaijan.
Generally, I like studying in the United States, because it is a totally new experience for me and I learned a lot of new things. Therefore, I would advise that American students visit other countries, too. It is very necessary to gain new experience. Besides, Europe and the United States are very different, so it would be very interesting to experience Europe. In the future, I plan to organize study-abroad programs in Azerbaijan for American students. I think American students will be really interested in this program.
Currently, I am a member of US & Caucasus Association for Peace and Democracy, and one of our goals is to organize such study-abroad programs for American students so that they can experience a totally different culture. Our association also plans to help with language learning.
Emin Teymurovsky is a master’s student in the Kogod School of Business.