Summer 2013 ISV Magazine Scholarship Finalist: Sam Henry

Sam Henry from Ghana studying at the University of Indianapolis is a finalist for the ISV Magazine summer scholarship! His struggle as an international student in the US? He calls it a “communication impediment”.


In the broad expanse of one tranquil evening after a good nap, I walked through the lobby of my residence hall en route to the library to begin the night’s studies. There and then, my attention was drawn to a girl in my English class whispering to her friend about how funny I sounded when I speak, or in other words, how funny my accent is. I was hit with a mixed feeling of anger and perplexity. I wondered how discriminating she has been and wanted to confront her with all the venom in me. However, I was also saddened and disappointed over the situation. How could someone be that inconsiderate? I thought this is America, a large melting pot of different people with different idiosyncrasies?

It had only been my first week in my English class when the professor asked us to write our first essay on any topic of our choice. One after the other, we mentioned what we were going to write about. The mention of ‘’soccer’’ in my typical African accent threw the whole class in an astonishing bewilderment as few of them were sent ridiculously guffawing as if I have uttered a word from the unspoken dictionary of ridicule. I felt like a fish out of water and the only person who seemed to understand my predicament was the professor who took a break to ask me where I come from and urged me to amplify my voice so he could hear me loud and clear. The extension of this happenstance from the English class by the girl across the lobby dampened my spirit and crushed every iota of zeal in me to actively engage in my new environment.

After these incidences, all the unflagging enthusiasm I carried in me to effectively get involved in my new environment had sadly vaporized into thin air. I began to reconsider how I am going to live harmoniously with this albatross on my neck – the communication impediment. In fact, the situation deteriorated with each passing time as my confidence grew weaker and weaker to communicate with people. In order to avoid any obvious ridicule and drawing attention to myself as someone perceived to be from another planet, I adapted to mimicry; trying to sound like the native folks, which rather aggravated my plight. The problem was that, anyone I tried to mimic spoke differently from one another yet an African child to the core of my being, and with a strong accent was obviously identifiable even to the deaf.

In my science classes where I hold a substantial knowledge and in a solid position to make meaningful contributions and ask intelligent questions, mostly to my own benefit, this communication barrier with its unnecessary attention to my native accent rather incapacitated me in my class interactions. Upon all the probable cultural impediments that I hypothesized to stand in my way, little did I know that communication is going to be the preponderant of the obstacles. For all I knew, I have been on top of my English class since third grade through to High School, so a problem of this caliber was inexistent to me.

Nevertheless, I made some conscious effort to fraternize with a couple of classmates and hall mates, yet the ugly monster was not absent in our interactions. As I struggled to listen and understand them, they barely made sense out of whatever I say. My home country, Ghana, though an English speaking country, natives predominantly speak their native dialects whereas in America, where the English Language is the lingua franca, the folks here are characterized by speaking very fast and with ease and hardly stressing on consonants. A point in case is a word like “better” where I wouldn’t miss out the pronunciation of any letter and mainly stressing on the letter “t”, hardly would you hear them pronounce the letter “t”. These, coupled with my inability to express myself fluently and expediently have been my utmost woes. As a highly opinionated student, it has become very difficult to freely express my superficial and philosophical sentimentalities to the comprehension of my subjects. As far as I am concerned, communication barrier stands as the biggest challenge international students are liable to face.

The good quality of United States college education comes with its consequent exorbitant cost. I recount vividly how I struggled to pay for school the previous semester because I have been saddled with severe financial constraints for quite some time now. The prospect of paying my way through this impending semester somewhat remains a mystery. Though, this scholarship package would not be a complete remedy to my long and short term financial challenges, I am with the strongest conviction that it will be a necessary boost and a pat on my back to give off my very best in my future ambition of becoming a physician and a genetic engineer in the nearest future despite the challenges. Hopefully, this will help alleviate the huge bill I have at my disposal currently.

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