MY FIRST DAYS AT SUNY PLATTSBURGH AS AN INTERNATIONAL STUDENT
SUNY Plattsburg (see School) is ranked #2 out of over 3000 colleges and universities in USA by international student satisfaction. Bach Do, one of Cogito’s students from Vietnam, wrote a beautiful story about his first days on campus and how he made SUNY his home. International students are eligible for partial scholarships at this school!
Leaving friends and family and especially my dog was a painful experience. I am going to be a sophomore at SUNY Plattsburg in New York state. I write these words with hopes to share my experience with those who have the courage to leave behind their families and study abroad. Hopefully my story can be somewhat useful, or at least entertaining.
From Ho Chi Minh City to Plattsburgh
A few things you should keep in mind before departing for the US. First of all, if you are going to a place as cold as Plattsburgh in winter, unless you are traveling during winter, NEVER EVER buy winter clothes in Vietnam. There’s a ridiculous amount of fake clothes. A fake jacket will not be able to keep you warm in -30 degree Celsius and let’s not argue here. Second, if you can afford to buy a decent jacket in Vietnam you will be paying a higher price because it is definitely imported.
Traveling from Vietnam to America can be quite stressful and especially if you’re going by yourself. The most important thing to keep in mind is to relax, wear comfortable clothes for the flight… Take it easy, the officers at the airport will not bite you, if you are not doing anything illegal then their strictness should make you feel safe.
At the airport, students should be a priority, if you are in a hurry to catch a plane but you have to wait at customs with travelers, refugees, etc. Just ask for an officer and explain your situation, you should have every right for them to let you “cut the line”. Because I was too nervous to approach them, I missed a flight to my school on the first day. Luckily, the airline gave me another ticket for free, but I did have to wait 11 hours at the airport, and spent 150$ later to hire a motel room at 3 A.M.. So to avoid these potential pains, speak.
After that unpleasant trip of mine, Janelle, a student, picked me up from the airport in the morning. “Oh Lord, I’m safe now!” was the first thought in my mind, really. Orientation week was one of the most wonderful times I had in Plattsburgh. The upper-class men would help me as much as they could. Even though I did feel homesick and cried when I heard my little dog Nuna would not eat because she missed me. Yet, when I’m with my campus friends they make me feel like I’m home. The whole Orientation Team made me feel welcomed here at the big SUNY Plattsburgh family!
My academic life at SUNY Plattsburgh
In my first year, I’ve got a perfect GPA of 4.0. I held a position as CA (Community Advocate), and I am a voting member of two organizations COAB (Clubs and Organizations Affairs Board) and CAS (College Auxiliary Services). During the first semester I did something against everyone advise – I registered for the maximum amount of credit a freshman could take – 18 credits. I was quite nervous at first, because I was the only person among my friends that did it. Still to me that was nothing compared to the time when I was a senior in high school in Vietnam. I believe university is the most important and efficient time to gain knowledge, and pushing your limits is a good thing. I do not recommend anyone to register for 18 credits, or to force yourself to live under pressure. Yet you will not know how far you can go unless you push yourself forward.
In my experience, the most important thing to keep in mind in college is your self-awareness. The teachers will not beg you to do the homework, read books or prepare for classes, etc. Whether you want to improve or not is up to you. One of the good ways to study is to ask questions. It is good if you can solve problems in your study group and believe me teamwork in college is extremely important. But if your team cannot come up with an answer, feel free to approach your professor. Personally, I prefer speaking with them in person. Every professor has office hours so students can meet up with him. I cannot demonstrate enough the importance of speaking directly to your professor. The reason that I got one of the only “A”s in my ENG101 class is that I consulted my writing with professor Aberle. He gladly reads every essay and helps me to improve it. Sadly, very few students approach him with their essays…
The fact that the professors are extremely nice here at SUNY Plattsburgh makes me so happy and motivates me. I am happy to the point that I would feel like they are my parents. And of course, every child is motivated to make their parents happy!
Anyway, reviewing and reviewing during the semester will save your life during finals week, and I really mean it. Admit it, no one wants to stick a 700 pages book in their heads in just one night… If you review your matters every weekend, it will help the knowledge to solidify and save your life. After all, studying is a process, not just a… night.
There’s a thing that I will just bring up, but I do not recommend any of you to try. If you are studying for an important test the day after and you feel really sleepy, the best way to fix it is to study until you don’t feel sleepy anymore.
Activities at SUNY Plattsburgh
It is true that studying is one of the main tasks in college, but to think that it is the only task is a severe mistake. In a resume, the GPA only deserves a single line, you will undoubtedly have to write something other than the GPA to fill the rest of the page. Those things must be the activities to prove how involved you were in your campus life.
That doesn’t mean that you have to force yourself to get involved with the things you don’t like. I will bet anything that nobody in this world only likes to study, you will definitely like something else. No matter what it is, you should be able to find someone with similar interests in college. Get together, start something with them, everything will be meaningful to make it, join a club, or start a club, organize activities together and before you realize, you have already been involved.
Every single person I meet in college says that networking is one of the most important things. You don’t have to be really good at communicating, but you do need to communicate to form good relationships so that you can help people when needed and vice versa.
Let’s take a small personal example. I have a hobby of playing piano, but I just couldn’t find a piano to play at first. Thanks to a friend, now I have access to Myers Fine Arts and I can play piano. I even had a chance to meet with Dr. Becker, who graduated from Julliard, and then to declare a Minor in Music.
SUNY Plattsburgh to me
I was born and raised in Ho Chi Minh City, the Big Apple of my country, so my first thought when I was looking for a university is to find someplace peaceful, a place that escapes from the race.
I also specifically like the Northeast part of the US. The wonderful weather with the romantic autumn, and the snowy winter. SUNY Plattsburgh is like a dream coming true to me.
If you are a person that loves autumn, have a dream of seeing snow for the first time, and look for a friendly environment like me, I strongly recommend giving SUNY Plattsburgh a try.