Moving to the US for Grad School: An International Student’s Perspective

By Sho Takeuchi, MPH’23 in Behavior, Social, and Health Education Sciences

There was a long line. I did not know how long I had to wait. I was tired. However, I had excitement but mainly nervousness in my heart. In August 2021, I arrived at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport and was in line for an immigration check.

This is my first long stay in the US. I do not have any family in the US. I have never met anyone in Atlanta. Of course, I had no idea what would happen to my life; first, I had just arrived in the US; second, I returned to school after seven years of working experience. Then, I had to adjust to a new life in the two perspectives.

Coming to the US
Coming to a different country is not easy. However, it is also fun! Language, culture, living conditions, rules/laws, and weather; you will have new experiences from multiple points. Everything was new to me. Language: English is a second language for me. Culture: people in the US more often shake hands or hug each other than people in Japan, where I am from. Living conditions, I lived in an apartment in Japan, but I lived in a house when I moved to the US. Rules/laws, cars drive on the left in Japan, while on the right in the US. Weather, I can say the weather in Tokyo is similar to Atlanta.

However, what I mentioned above are very superficial differences between the two countries. You will experience deeper differences, such as how people make “real” friends, how people collaborate at work, or how people negotiate. A “real” understanding of culture takes time and patience, but I believe it is worth doing. I cannot conclude about the point; I am still trying to understand and enjoy the new culture.

Coming to Graduate School
Whatever the process was, I was “finally” admitted to Rollins. Each student had a story of how and why they came here. However they arrived at Rollins, being a student is an entirely different experience from being a working professional. My main job here is studying. I have to do a lot of homework. Also, I receive a grade.

Before coming to Rollins, I was a member of the faculty at a medical school. I gave lectures and tests to medical students. Then, coming to grad school gave me an opposite standpoint. When I was a teacher in Japan, I sometimes had to give students a “not good” score (although it was very rare for me.) As a student here, I feel sad when I receive a worse grade than expected. When I was a teacher in Japan, I put some positive and negative comments on the student’s papers. As a student here, I sometimes feel like I want to get only positive feedback (in fact, the instructors at Rollins are very good at motivating students with positive feedback.) When I was a teacher in Japan, I was glad that the students participated in the class actively. As a student here, I tried to do my best, but I can say I am a relatively quiet student. How self-centered I am!!!

Anyway, it is interesting to be a student after having teaching experience. I see the teacher’s intentions more than when I was an undergrad student: why teachers give “the” assignment, why teachers give “the” feedback, and what teachers expect the students to do or learn.

Okay. Let’s come back to the story I mentioned at the beginning of the blog. I was in a line for an immigration check at the airport. The officer asked, “what will you study?” Of course, I have learned about public health. But what I have learned at Rollins is more than public health.

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