How My Perceptions Changed About the United States

Sheraine Peart from Jamaica discusses her perceptions about the United States before arriving in the country and how her perceptions have changed after studying in New York.

As part of our microscholarship program we asked current international students what their perceptions were about the United States before they arrived and how their perceptions changed after studying in the country.

Sheraine Peart from Jamaica studying at Nassau Community College in New York is our first microscholarship winner for fall 2016. She will receive $100 to help toward her studies for the fall semester.

Read her winning essay below: 

“I was worried about discrimination.”

After hearing this phrase most Americans jump to the defense of their country, I rarely get a chance to expand on the point.

New Yorkers are really poor listeners but it makes me smile. I smile because of all my fears about coming to this country, only that one turned out to be true.  I had always perceived the United States as being unwelcoming to others.  Television broadcasts, of red-faced politicians shouting at each other about immigrants, immigrants who came to steal American jobs and were not “REAL” Americans.   Unless, of course, it was election season and then they became the minority vote.  I felt that in America, people like me; people who had come to follow our dreams or to make a better life for ourselves were seen as a sort of flesh eating parasite.

I imagined a country filled with those who would see my presence there as taking opportunities from others rather than as working hard to achieve my dreams. It made me sad because I had also seen speeches which spoke of the United States being diverse and accepting land, the land of opportunity. So which one was real? The answer is both. Two months into my studies I realized that I had done to this country what so many people here do to mine; reduce it down to only one aspect of itself.  Just as Jamaica is not just reggae and beaches, the United States is far more than its pockets of discriminators.

Although a bit brusque (I live in New York) the people here look out for one another. I met two girls in my first semester that treat me like family and they are not the exception to the rule. I shared with them, everything from my first time on a roller coaster to my first snow. I had a teacher, who helped me buy lunch when I needed it and made friends with store owners in my community, who encourage me as an artist.  In this country, if you reach out to people as long as they can they will help.

Furthermore, there is so much diversity here, with each nation contributing their culture to the way of life. My friends come from all over, from America to Zimbabwe. Imagine having kimchi (Korean spicy cabbage) with Norwegian rice soup, while your friends argue in Spanish about everything and nothing.  Americans live life to the fullest, in the craziest most unexpected way.

So if anything changed about my perception of this country, it is that for all the bad that happens here there is an equal amount of amazingly good people to help you through it, but, like in all countries, you have to reach out for them. Building relationships in this country take a lot of work, but it is something I have never regretted doing.

It is your chance at a new life; do not let anyone stop you from enjoying it, especially not yourself.

Click here: Learn more about microscholarships and how to apply!

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