Alem first shared his ideas with us on October 20, 2012 in "The Curious Mind" entry.
He has just finished his first year at Ripon College in Wisconsin.
When I Skyped with Alem in April he lifted up his computer, pointed it out his dorm room window, and showed me the formidable layer of snow that still blanketed his school's campus. It was a long, cold winter in the midwest, but he retained his usual optimism and saw it all as an adventure.
Because travel between the United States and Ethiopia is prohibitively expensive, he is spending this summer in Wisconsin with hopes of returning home after he completes his sophomore year of college.
|Alem on Pram Pram beach in southern Ghana. (June 2011)|
Here are some of his thoughts following his freshmen year at Ripon:
My first year of college studies was a great and challenging experience. I found college very different from ‘school’ in terms what is expected from students in both class and outside. New teaching styles, the amount of independent learning expected from students and some cultural shocks were some of the new experiences I encountered during my first year of college. This coupled with some ‘distractions’ made my freshman year a challenging one and I am glad I passed through these challenges as it made me stronger.
Are you happy about choosing Ripon College as your place of study?
Definitely Yes! When I think of some of the lovely friends I get to know here and the special learning experience Ripon offered me, I feel lucky to be here.
What was the most surprising thing you discovered about life in America?
Social interaction seems very limited at least here in Wisconsin. My expectation was American life to be a lot similar to what is portrayed by Hollywood movies but I found it a lot different. Perhaps this is mainly due to the huge priority they give to their day to day work activities.
You said some of your first semester classes were quite easy – why do you think this was the case? Are you feeling more challenged this semester?
My first semester was quite an easy one at least relative to my second semester. This was mainly because most of the courses I was taking during the first semester were courses that I already took in the International Baccalaureate program, while my second semester courses are new ones to me and definitely challenging so I have to study a lot more this time. Another fresh encounter this semester is the task of working for SODEXO (My school's food service company) about 10 hours a week, so I have to use my time a lot more efficiently.
You started lifting weights this year – what inspired you to do this?
I always wanted to be a healthy and fit person but for many years I did not have the motivation to go the GYM and exercise. But now when I see a lot of my college peers going to the GYM, I felt like I should be one of them.
What do you miss most about home?
I miss my family, friends and the feeling of being home, the feeling of being around your beloved ones.
Have you met people who helped you adapt to your new environment?
Definitely! Life would have not been easy here without the moral support of my host parents, my friends, soccer team mates and professors. I would like to say Thank you for all of them.
What will you do with your summer break?
I am planning on Working on campus, Preparing for my first actuarial exam and probably visit some places around Wisconsin.
Were there any lonely moments this year? How did you deal with them?
I faced sporadic lonely moments particularly during the first semester but it was not that much of a challenge for me as I have passed through a lot similar experiences before. One of the things I learnt from the course of my life is the ability to motivate myself even in times hardships.
What are you most looking forward to for your second year of college?
I look forward to take some interesting Math and physics courses and I hope that will be the year that would unveil the course of my future career. I am also hoping to take my first actuarial exam at the end of this year.