Three Boler international students share what it's like to be an international student at John Carroll University — from first impressions to favorite memories, why they chose JCU, and what they’d do differently if they could go back.
When Priyaka Narine looked out the window of her JCU dorm for the first time, she remembers thinking, “Wow, this looks like it came from a show.”
Seeing everyone on the main quad – with their blankets out and throwing around an American football – it looked exactly like the scenes on TV. She recognized “The Quad” from American TV shows and movies, describing ” a big grassy area with a flagpole and people tanning and playing frisbees,” and adds, “that actually happens at my school.”
An international student from Trinidad and Tobago, Priyaka began her time at John Carroll as an undergraduate student and has enjoyed many JCU Student Union Programming Board (SUPB) events on the quad over the years with food trucks, games, and movie nights.
“They took us ice skating on the quad,” Priyaka says, which was her first-time ice skating, and while she sprained her ankle, she says, “it was almost worth the pain — being there and seeing everyone skating around, it was such a happy atmosphere.”
Another first happened during international student orientation when they visited the Cleveland Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History — this was her first time going to a museum.
Making memories, building your future, and having fun
Her most cherished JCU memories are "little bites of life from the past four years." One of her professors took a class to share life experiences — instead of the planned lesson, “he told us how to change a car tire and how to detail a car properly.”
During finals week in the dorms, people would knock on her door in the middle of the night, offering hotdogs and energy drinks. She says, “they want to make sure you’re ready for your finals the next day and that you have food.”
Priyaka encourages incoming JCU international students to adopt an outgoing mindset and put themselves out there. "At JCU, it's not cool to stay in a corner and just do your academics," she says, "you have to learn how to network, make friends, and introduce yourself."
“It’s easy to close yourself off and stay in your comfort zone, doing only what you have to and nothing outside of academics,” she cautions, “but after you graduate, you’re going to regret that.”
She advises, “experience the right now – make the most of your time here, but also make sure you’re doing enough to set your future up for success.”
Always with the help of a caring, supportive John Carroll Community
“This is a small school, and it provides individualized attention, but it also allows you to make a name for yourself,” Priyaka says. People are always looking out for each other and encouraging that you feel included.
She’s an intern at Hyland Software and working as a Graduate Assistant for Boler while she completes her MBA classes. “JCU contributed a lot to my professional, academic, and career development in general – they’re heavily focused on academics, but also professional development – like getting internships and going out and getting job experience,” she adds.
As a graduate assistant for the Boler professional development program, she works with students to help them take advantage of John Carroll's career opportunities, from writing resumes and cover letters to dressing appropriately and interviewing well.
“I tend to seek out international students and look at their resumes and reach out to them on my own because I know what it felt like to be an international student,” she says, and adds that she actively searches for companies who are hire and offer internships to international students.
An education that evolves to meet industry demand
Coming to the U.S. from Tanzania, JCU was “a very conscious choice to study something that will offer me opportunities,” says Moses Nandi, an MSIE Candidate and JCU undergrad computer science major.
In fact, he had no plan to pursue a graduate degree until learning about John Carroll’s new Masters of Science in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. As an aspiring techpreneur, the program combines his technology and computer science background with the business-driven skills he wants to gain to come up with his own ventures.
Adjusting to a new culture, climate, and more
While he’d been to other countries, studying at JCU was his first time leaving Africa. At first, adjusting was hard — he explains, “the U.S. has a totally different culture than where I come from.” In the dining hall in his first week, Moses remembers asking his friend what bacon was. His friend answered, "bacon is bacon.”
The American restaurant experiences are another one. “There are so many options. Even your average restaurant asks so many questions when you order a meal. The first time a waiter or waitress asked me what I would like to eat, it felt like an interrogation session,” he says.
The weather was another huge change. Moses explains, “where I come from, if it gets below 70 F, people start wearing sweaters.” While happy seeing snow for the first time, he says, “by late January, I was pretty much done.”
Moses became more involved in the JCU community by joining the soccer team and working in the IT department. He also built close relationships with his professors, took opportunities to follow his academic interests with classes in many disciplines, and graduated with a minor in philosophy.
Among his favorites – are the one-on-one directed readings class sessions with Dr. Mooney. Moses took six classes with Dr. Mooney on specific topics in Ancient Greek Philosophy and dialogues from Plato and Socrates. He says, “it was the best time in my academic experience – sitting down and discussing Socrates, the most amazing man ever to have lived,” and adds, “I would take a 7th class with Dr. Mooney.”
A global education inspired by business
“Quality education, abundant opportunities, and a multicultural environment” are among the factors that brought MBA candidate Pankaj Amarnani from Belize to Boler. His main attraction to the Boler MBA program was “the idea of Inspired Business.”
Like Priyaka and Moses, Boler MBA candidate Pankaj Amarnani experienced heavy snow for the first time at JCU, but unlike them, he didn't have the experience until graduate school.
Being from a small country, Pankaj noticed how everything is spread out in the city or country in the U.S. Another first impression – he says, “there isn’t much judgment; everyone is allowed to have their own perspectives or beliefs, and that’s what makes them unique.”
Pankaj says, “studying in the U.S. is like no other; it has the perfect balance between school-work and social and personal life, which adds to the development of the whole person.”
When he thinks about the value of his Boler education and international student experience, it’s effective leadership skills and the ability to impact all areas of business, regardless of the market or the country. “My personal growth comes from deciphering the human needs hidden in every business aspect and creating sustainable value,” says Pankaj.