International Student Spotlight
Each month we introduce an international student currently studying in the U.S. and ask about their adjustment to university life. This month, Angelos Nicolaou shares his story about why he chose to study in the U.S. and how he got used to his new college environment.
Name: Angelos Nicolaou
Home country: Cyprus
University/College: Wentworth Institute of Technology, Boston MA
Major: Construction Management
Career aspirations: Entrepreneur
Graduation year: 2013
What made you want to study at a U.S. university?
My parents received their Bachelors as well as their Masters degrees from universities in the US and they have always been great inspirations to me. Another reason was that I was not fond of the British high-school system that I attended, and as a result, I searched for an education system that fit my style of learning. The US system seemed like the right choice, and it was. I knew that the US education system would give me a well-rounded education like no other. The reputation of the universities here was very intriguing to me, as well.
What types of things did you do in high school to prepare yourself for attending university?
My extracurricular activities were certainly the most important aspect of my preparation for university while at high school. I played the drums for 10 years, I attended pan-European conferences regarding sustainability and socioeconomic issues, and I even participated at the Global Young Leaders Conference which took place in Washington DC, and in New York City. These activities gave me a peek into the real world, they helped me get more involved, and consequently, they also helped me discover myself.
How did you decide which universities and colleges to apply to?
There were a number of steps that I took in order to decide. First and foremost, I searched for the universities that offered my major of choice. Second, I looked for location. I knew that I did not want to be on the West Coast since that was too far away from Europe, so I looked for Universities in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions. Third, I reviewed the websites of the universities that I was interested in, which were extremely informative by the way, and finally, I researched their rankings and reputation.
How was it adjusting to a new country and university environment?
I have personally never lived in any city for more than 5 years in my life. By the time that I came to the US I had been to over 20 countries, yet, I never felt more welcome to a country than I did when I came here. The United States, and especially the East Coast, is extremely cultural and diverse. Even US Citizens will proudly tell you what their ethnical backgrounds are. I tried to be as polite and respectful as I could and I found that people here were extremely nice to me, as well. The fact that I read as much about the US culture as I could before I came here, not to mention countless hours watching Hollywood movies and American TV shows, helped me immensely. Finally, I owe a lot to my American friends who were extremely open and helpful to me, both in- as well as out- of the University environment. Adjusting the US culture was a breeze!
What do you appreciate most about studying at a U.S. university?
They teach us how to think here in the US. That was key for me. I quickly found out that being in college here is not just about your academics. It is to help you discover yourself. That is extremely important in a person’s life. You must practice what you are passionate about in order to be successful. That is the most significant lesson that I learned here in the US, and I really appreciate that. It truly takes the open minds of the students, as well as the professors, in order to take that approach. Here, I learned not just to think outside the box, I learned that there is no box.
What do you find most challenging about studying at a U.S. university?
If anything, I found the US system to be less challenging than any other education system that I have experienced. That is not to say that it is, by any means, an easy system. I have learned more here than I have ever expected to. The teaching style at American Universities really suits my academic persona. Everything, from the balance between general education and major classes, to all the visual graphics as well as practical approaches and applications, have provided me with an extremely enjoyable and effective learning experience.
What is your most memorable moment of studying and living in the U.S. so far?
My most memorable moment was participating at the Associated Schools of Construction Commercial Competition in 2012. I was the only international student selected by the Construction Management Department Chair at my university, and I was also given a vital role on my team of five other people. That made me extremely proud. We practiced for a year for the competition, and once we arrived in New Jersey, where the competition was held, we had twelve hours to assemble a bid for a commercial construction project. We competed against 16 other schools in the Northeast Region, and we were evaluated by Project Managers and Engineers who had worked on the project itself. My team and I placed 2nd, and we were praised from the firms and professionals present at the competition as well as our university when we returned. The most valuable aspect of the entire experience however, was the strong personal relationships that had developed between my teammates and I.
What advice would you give to students in other countries wanting to study in the U.S.?
If I had one thing to say to them it is that they do not have to have it all figured out at this point in their life, and that no one expects them to, either. There is an abundance of resources on the Internet and I would advise the prospective students to use them wisely. Research the programs, the universities, and the cities, which you will be applying to. Upon deciding for a university I would say, give minimal attention to the rankings. Make sure that you choose a program that you love at a university and at a city where you would potentially feel most comfortable, and perhaps most inspired, in. America really is the land of opportunity, and with hard work and dedication you will be bound by no limits.