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Taking on the unknown together

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Photo courtesy of photo services
A group of students came to USI from Panama through the National Secretariat of Science and Technology of Panama. Each student was given the opportunity through a scholarship they earned.

Xenia Adames was a high school senior living in Aguadulce, Panama when a teacher told her about an opportunity to study in the U.S.

Adames applied for a scholarship through the National Secretariat of Science and Technology of Panama. 

USI is one of two public universities in the United States to collaborate with the National Secretariat of Science and Technology of Panama to bring degree-seeking students from Panama to study in the United States.

The students go through the Intensive English Program to improve their language skills. They are placed on a level from one to six and take English classes based on reading, speaking and writing. After they complete to program, they can pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree at the university.

Adames, currently at level four, first arrived in America June 10. Adams said she had never heard about USI before learning she would go there, but thought the campus was very beautiful when she arrived.

“At the beginning, I was scared because I thought the people were going to be mean with me, or that they would not like me because I was an international student,” Adames said. “But when I started to talk with the people I realized that they were really nice here and really friendly.”

Adames said she misses the food and the beaches in Panama.

“Here, the food is just fried chicken and hamburgers and it’s like, ‘Oh my god I want another thing,’” Adames said. “If I want another thing, I need to cook myself.”

Adames said the university has a lot of opportunities for students.

“They care a lot about the students, and the teachers care a lot about you and they are always asking, ‘How are your classes?’ and ‘How do you feel?’” Adames said. “I think that’s the most important thing. You feel the support from the teachers, and in that way, I think you can learn more and improve better.”

Hortensia Almanza, a level three student, studied medicine in Santiago, Panama before coming to the university. She applied for the scholarship because she thought the education system in the United States was better.

“I really liked the opportunity because in Panama it’s really difficult with some majors,” Hortensia said. “Here, the professors help us with some things, so it’s the opportunity to improve, learn other languages and also improve in other majors.”

Hortensia said the people in America are very polite.

“They say, ‘hi,’ ‘good morning,’ ‘thank you’ all these things,” Hortensia said. “It’s very good for us.”

The Panama students took trips to places like St. Louis, Missouri; Garden of the Gods and Chicago, Illinois.

“It was amazing,” Hortensia said. “It’s the perfect moment to share with other students, not only Panamanians. We visit really amazing places.”

Hortensia made friends with her roommates and other international students, but she said she still misses home

“I miss the food, I miss a lot of things,” Hortensia said. “But I think USI is good. USI is like a home.”

Hortensia plans to finish her major in radiology and continue to study. She’s not sure where she wants to end up after the program. She said she gained a new perspective when she arrived in America.

“You see the world differently,” Hortensia said. “It’s not only Panama, it’s other places. You have to work and continue and see other things in the world.”

Yosep Almanza came from the rural side of Panama, right next to Colombia.

The level three student said he initially didn’t want to come to America, but was encouraged by another student studying in Mexico to travel to another country and study a new language. Yosep plans to major in computer science after completing the program.

Photo courtesy of photo services
The students from Panama came to USI together. The students have contributed to the community of students from all around the world studying at the university.

Yosep said when he arrived in America, he didn’t know anything about English.

“I really only knew ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye,’” Yosep said. “So, it was so difficult for me because I couldn’t understand anything. People usually speak very quickly, and that was so difficult.”

Yosep said he likes learning languages.

“I learned a new culture,” Yosep said. “And I have this opportunity here, and I’m so glad for that.”

Yosep plans to earn his degree and return to Panama.

“I miss my country,” Yosep said. “But I’d like to come back sometime (to the USA).”

Yosep said he would recommend other for other students in Panama to go through the program.

“I usually talk with my family and I share how I am and what I am doing here,” Yosep said. “And they say that they would come here.”

Adames said studying abroad will open many opportunities in her life.

“I am here studying another language and learning about other cultures and about life,” Adames said. “I think here I will change and I will become a better person because I am adapting to the society from here. And I think I am becoming more polite and learning the good things from here.”

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Taking on the unknown together