Extra Degree of Difficulty

Being in nursing school has been a challenge for me. It can be hard to grasp the vast amount of medical information we need to know in this program. But can you imagine doing the same if English was not the first language you learned? Well, there are many at USG who do just that. Although they may make it look easy, there are some challenges that come with the territory.

Meet Emile Vieira, who came to the U.S. from Brazil in 1994, Sunisa Hirunprateep, who came from Thailand in 2012, and Onyi Ozoji, originally from Nigeria, who came to the U.S. in 2012. All three will graduate with their BSNs in December 2018. I asked them a few questions to get an idea about how they succeed in this challenging program. And make sure you read to the end for some extremely funny stories from each.


Emile, Sunisa and Onyi after their MedSurg lecture.

  • What is the biggest language challenge about being in nursing school? 
    EV: Since classes are at a really fast pace, sometimes I find myself lost with words that to native English speakers, may not be unusual.
    SH: I think the biggest language challenge for me is exposure to new words such as atelectasis, atrial fibrillation and prophylaxis, that I never heard before.
    OO: Trying to understand the meaning of an exam question or writing a paper.
  • What is something that you did not expect (language or otherwise) about going to nursing school?
    EV: I sometimes think nurses speak their own language, especially when I am listening to them give report at clinical.
    SH: The time management it requires. It is challenging for me because I normally take days to write a simple paper. In nursing school, I can’t take all day to write my papers because then I won’t have enough time to study for exams.
    OO: The amount of resources available to students and the support from faculty.
  • What services (The Writing Center, tutors, library study rooms, etc.) do you find helpful on the USG campus?
    EV: I love the library (scanning the books for free!), The Writing Center and tutors. Although, I wish there were more tutors!
    SH: I use all the services, but mostly I use The Writing Center when it is time to write care plans!
    OO: The Writing Center is the best resource for me. They reviewed all my papers in the first semester and that helped boost my grades.
  • Who do you consider your biggest supporter?
    EV: Wow, tough question. But I believe my parents are my biggest cheerleaders and my boys my biggest motivators.
    SH: My parents and my nursing student cohort.
    OO: My former boss (at NIH) is my biggest supporter.
  • Any tips for other multilingual students about how to balance school and home life?
    EV: I find that I understand the material better when I pre-read and watch a couple of videos on the subject before class and right after class, I review the material. I also write down words I do not recognize and usually Google them right away. As I drive, I listen to the recorded lectures, which is my biggest tip.
    SH: My school and home life are not in balance. It is very hard; I am not lying.  However, my tip is that school is my priority, and the other things such as home life and social life can wait.
    OO: There are lots of resources at USG. Ask questions, use The Writing Center and get a tutor if you have to. Do not be afraid or insecure because you are multilingual—embrace the fact you can view things from a different perspective. Also, remember that family is our biggest asset in nursing school so hold on dearly to them. They will be there to cheer us on until graduation day.
  • Any funny stories to share?
    EV: The first time I heard the word “angina” (chest pain), I thought it was something else and started cracking up.
    SH: When we were doing the cardiovascular lecture, our professor was talking about BNP (Brain Natriuretic Peptide). A student asked “B…what?” Then, the professor said “B-N: N as in Nancy.” I turned to Emile and asked “Who is Nancy?”
    OO: When I was doing my prerequisites at Montgomery College, I got a 78 on an exam. In my country, a 78 is an “A”. I was so excited and proud of myself that on the way home, I stopped and treated myself to a Big Mac. My husband broke the bad news to me when I got home that a 78 was indeed, a “C”.

Thanks, my sisters, for sharing with us all. Grateful to be on this journey with you gals!

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