Honestly, I came to Whatcom Community College at first because the study abroad agency in my home country told me to. I had no idea about WCC or Bellingham. I was a city girl who had just graduated from high school in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was only 17 years old, but I knew I wanted to study abroad; I did not care where.
The first time I came to Bellingham was tough because I spoke only basic English. It was difficult for me to adapt to the U.S. system because I came from a totally different country where people were more dependent on each other. When I arrived in the U.S., I was still immature and confused being all by myself in a country that had a totally different culture. Bellingham was much smaller than my home of Jakarta. People were so unfamiliar to me. They had a different way of communicating, different food (which I did not like), and a different school system.
However, even though I was young and unsure of my new life in the U.S., I really wanted to be successful. I realized how much money my dad spent to support my U.S. education. I knew that he wanted the best for me. This moment really played a big role in my life. I realized that I was wasting my time and my dad's money when I was in high school. When I moved to the U.S., I wanted to make my parents happy and proud of me. I wanted to contribute to society.
I wanted to be successful, but I did not know how. Thankfully, WCC provided me resources and information to make me grow. Through my hardest time, the international program staff at WCC helped me the most. They guided me to discover and participate in school organizations and leadership positions like the student government. The instructors were also really supportive. I had John Rousseau for one of my first academic classes in WCC, which was biology. I remembered that I was struggling in that class because my English was not good enough. I came to his office almost every week, and he explained everything that he taught all over again to me. I failed biology in high school, but I got an A in his class. I hated biology, but he made me like it. I have also learned a lot from my host family and friends. My host family, the Webbers, was really there for me when I was struggling with everything. My host dad, William Webber, is a math professor at WCC. He and his family showed me the most about the American culture and how to communicate in real life.
From the opportunities that WCC provided me, I could improve myself to another stage in life. Today, I am no longer an ungrateful adolescent. I can support myself because I have a scholarship and a job on campus. I have also learned what I want to do for my life. I am graduating this spring 2014, and the University of Oregon is giving me a full-ride academic scholarship to teach the community about Indonesian culture. This is one step closer to my goals of contributing to society and making my parents proud of me. I could never have achieved this without being a WCC student. I would have never known how important it is to do everything by myself. Now, I am a WCC student not because of the study abroad agency or my desire to get away, but because I want to be here. I am grateful that I am a part of Whatcom Community College.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This article is one in a series of essays written by Whatcom Community College students. Sonia Herman is a WCC student from Indonesia. She will graduate with an Associate in Arts and Sciences degree and will transfer with a full scholarship to the University of Oregon. She hopes to earn a business degree with a minor in psychology. After graduation, she plans to work in marketing for an organization such as the World Wildlife Fund, UNICEF or a similar agency. Through WCC's International Program, more than 250 students from 30 countries attend classes on Whatcom's campus.