Many have asked how I do it, how I live away from my entire family and seem not to be phased by it at all. This question is asked very often especially around the Valentine season where love is in the air. In fact, just recently I met a new international student here on our diverse campus at the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), who was fresh off the boat as we say in my circles and was having some difficulty adjusting as she had built up many personal walls.
Her questions regarding this made me think long and hard as to how I survived the transition stage to now be relatively successful. My immediate conclusion was that I do not have a heart as I was told on more than one occasion “you have an icebox where your heart is supposed to be.” When it was announced in August 2011 that I, Gabriel Daniel, Corporate Accounts Executive of Digicel Guyana, the Bigger Better Network, would soon be pursuing studies abroad instead, many wondered why. The answer was a surprisingly simple one; it was time for me to leave the nest. About a year before I realized I was in a place and in a position in life that I had always dreamed about. I realized that everyone in my life was in a place to carry on without me and with that, I left the job that I worked about five years to achieve. I made the decision pretty quickly and expected nothing more than to just pack my bags, get on a plane (yes I came on a plane and not a boat as many of you think) and then attend classes in pursuit of my degree.
The transition to the new environment was not easy at first, but here I am five years later, still going strong. After writing this piece of reflection, I can now confidently say to Jane and any other international student, that the secret to my success and perhaps to your’s, will be the friendships that you forge. Something I think we should not lose sight of. And you could not ask for a better environment than the USG campus to do just that. At USG there are so many services available and opportunities presented to help you transition and break those personal barriers. For example, the upcoming International Night Event happening next Thursday, February 23rd presents a wonderful opportunity to join in on the free celebrations, featuring multi-national foods, music, poetry slam, fashion, and talent show. Although the timing for the event 6 pm to 9 pm will be during one of my class sessions, I will surely find a way to attend, so I encourage you to do so also!
Seems pretty simple, right? But believe me, I understand if you are reading this and thinking, easier said than done! I was raised in a culture where we were sternly told to avoid social distractions (friendships) and focus on the academic prize. However, it is important to realize that friends can have educational as well as social benefits. So in conclusion, I encourage you to go forth building friendships and not walls, and all shall be well. You don’t have to take my word for it but I think Bob Marley was pretty spot on when he said “none but ourselves can free our minds.”