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Saturday, January 29, 2022

International Forsyth Tech student shares pandemic journey

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One of the best aspects of being an international student is to share my culture with others while learning about theirs. Costa Rica is a small country in Central America, with a population of about 5 million people. No wonder Costa Ricans often joke that we’re all “cousins” in some way and that it’s easy for us to “get to know everyone.” Because I studied in an American school in Costa Rica, the culture here was not entirely foreign to me when I came back in December 2020. I also lived in North Carolina for two years when I was in middle school with my mom and grandmother. However, returning as an adult to study in a place where I’ve always felt like my second home has been an exciting journey and I’m excited to share it.

A journey through educational diversity

Graduating from high school at Lincoln School in Costa Rica in 2010 – just as the United States was beginning to recover from the Great Recession – made my dream of studying abroad uncertain. The daughter of a hard-working elementary teacher and a single mother, my possibilities to come to the United States as a college student were limited; A difficult reality to accept after years of hard work and academic excellence. My mother used to say, “Your time will come,” and little did I know, after nearly ten years, I would be here to fulfill that dream.

I was fortunate to experience both public and private university education. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Costa Rica, one of the largest universities in the country and the highest ranked in Central America. With approximately 45,000 students between undergraduate and postgraduate students, the school has a very dynamic environment. Attending a big school was fun because it allowed me to make friends with diverse interests. However, I often felt like I was just a number and not someone with goals and dreams of my own.

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I continued my education with a graduate degree from Santa Paula University, a much smaller private institution that specializes in allied health sciences. Our highly trained faculty provided a rigorous academic and professional environment, which I enjoyed. It was also my first encounter with the sense of community that an institution can provide because faculty and staff have invested time getting to know their students individually. For this reason, Santa Paula University will always hold a special place in my heart.

Soon after graduation, I set up my own clinic in Costa Rica. In the process, I discovered that my preparation as a physical therapist was excellent, but I knew absolutely nothing about owning a business. Starting and running a business was a wonderful experience that led me to learn about many aspects of life outside of my field. Suddenly, I learned about taxes, scheduling, record keeping, marketing, customer service, and more. There was a lot to learn, and I wanted to get these tools right instead of figuring out on my own.

transmission of the epidemic

Since my mother actually lives in North Carolina, it seemed logical to look at institutions in the area. Through my research, I’ve discovered that many of the programs have core courses like economics and accounting, and a few others that I’ve never taken before. The associate degree program at Forsyth Technical Community College will allow me to complete some of these general courses at a lower cost and prepare more effectively for my next educational steps. After the COVID-19 pandemic forced me to shut down my professional services for months, there seemed to be no better time to begin my journey. I applied and got accepted, and my move to Winton-Salem began just a few months later.

Transmission during the pandemic has been difficult. While I was accepted into Forsyth Tech early in 2020, student visa appointments at the US Embassy can only be made 120 days prior to the start of the academic program. By March 2020, the whole world was in pandemic mode, embassies closed, flights grounded, and devastated.

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Weekly calls to the embassy to request information became the norm. With August fast approaching, and after my emergency appointment request was denied, I realized how difficult the transition was. She delayed the start by six months to allow things to return to “normal,” something we’re still eagerly awaiting nearly two years later.

Much more than just a community college

Forsyth Tech is a much smaller institution than the colleges I attended previously. However, in the past year I have enjoyed some of the advantages of attending a smaller institution. Forsyth Tech seems to be more than just an educational institution; It feels like home. Committed to Southern Hospitality, from my first visit to request information until my last visit of the year, the staff and faculty have gone above and beyond to make me feel like I belong. With a plethora of activities to meet the needs of every student, there is always something going on. Although the first semester was mostly distance learning, I never felt strange as the Student Life and Participation team at Forsyth Tech found clever ways to unite students through screens and devices.

At the end of my first semester, I was invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honorary Society of Forsyth Tech. PTK is a two-year community of honor that provides tools for students to thrive in academic and professional environments. After joining quickly, I became part of the leadership team. With a focus on scholarship, leadership, fellowship, and service, PTK has allowed me to make friends in a new country, learn about my surroundings, and give back to the community.

This year I was also selected to represent the student body as one of the Forsyth Tech Student Ambassadors. Through this role, I have learned about my community of fellow students as well as the individuals and organizations that make magic happen. As I slowly discover more about Forsyth County, I fall in love with all it has to offer. These two opportunities allow me to share my culture with others which I feel is essential for any international student.

After Forsyth Tech, I hope to do an MBA with a focus on marketing, ideally staying in North Carolina. Although deciding which institution to transfer to is still some months away, financial aid and scholarships for international students are scarce. With many out-of-state tuition rates starting at $30,000 per year, choosing a school can feel overwhelming, especially when student visas limit employment possibilities.

However, I remain optimistic that my hard work, eagerness to learn, and desire to give back to the community will not go unnoticed. I hope another great organization like Forsyth Tech will venture to me.

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Gloriana Ordonese Carbone

Gloriana Ordonez Carboni is a student at Forsyth Community Technical College studying business administration and marketing. She is from San Jose, Costa Rica.

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