My country, Serbia, underwent a period of terror and wars, especially during the NATO Bombing in 1999. This marking event in our history taught me more than what my formal education could. Before this disaster struck, I was a full-time student and the University of Pristina majoring in English Language and Literature. During the high of political upheavals, the situation in Kosovo was already tense.
Minorities had constant provocations, and hatred had a firm imprint on the people. My life was heavily influenced, as well as my education. I had experienced first hand what it means to be “persona non grate” in the your childhood community.
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I wished everyone could understand what this meant for all of us, regardless of who we were and where we came from. Being prosecuted and not having the right to enjoy our college days was a sour memory, but something I live by as a source of my strength. I experienced biases and prejudice, yet I stand firm.
I was treated badly, but my dreams never blurred from my sight. I was emotionally affected, but I was more inspired to pursue these dreams, and become a counselor. Freedom in this country was taken for granted, and our college life overlooked.
The war made it necessary for me to leave Pristina and Kosovo. Shocked and scared, I came back to a home where fires, bombings and NATO planes assailed my daily itinerary. The screeching sirens did not help our situation. It seemed that we merely waited for the bomb to drop on our heads and defy us from mere existence.
During all the madness, I tried to suppress my stress by being optimistic for my family and friends. As a child, I have been my family's “corrupter of words”, as I've always seen myself as one of Shakespeare’s fools. My mom always pointed out my ability to rearrange words and it's meanings to create a personal “philosophical” statement.
I would often add humor when the our lives would seem bland, other times when we feel the panic crawling through our bones, and fear completely etching our faces. The bombings taught us this.
As you watch the planes every day, you'd get to realize that there are things you can do as not to be so stressed. Since we could not prevent the many disasters in our lives, we can re-frame the fear and pain to something more positive. The idea was to live your life as normally as possible, by teaching yourself to be blind of some of the negative events in our lives.
It wasn't all that bad during those terrifying days. There were positive outcomes as well, like in social gatherings where the unique humor and spirit in my culture gave me a good faith and optimism to survive next days. If I couldn’t eliminate stress by changing or ignoring the situation, the least I could do was offer social support.
My profound interest in teaching English to people of different languages didn’t falter due to the war. It allowed me to complete my education on time, and start my career as an English teacher. In the classroom, it is particularly important for me to understand the point of view of the student, and use humor and real-life situations to get my points across.
I developed my interest in researching about language through my undergraduate studies. My greater interest is on how sociocultural factors have an impact on the awareness, design, implementation, and assessment of a second language in a multicultural community, in comparison to those in culturally homogeneous communities.
ESL classes in Serbia were more British oriented, both in linguistics and culture. As a young teacher, I have always been open to new teaching methods. I also tried to add novelties into the curriculum. My decision to spend a year in the United States was supported by my desire to learn more about the American culture.
I believe this will broaden my perspectives on cultural diversity and different systems of education. Furthermore, this will heighten my personal and professional development. I can say that life can be very unpredictable because my one year visit become a life of adventure and possibilities by studying psychology.
You would know if you are experiencing life if the wind pushes you in all directions. My senses were surrounded with uncertainty as I involved myself in a different culture. I knew how it felt to be a little fish in a big pond. Being an international student from Eastern Europe did not prepare me for the many interesting things a new country can offer me.
The initial knowledge gained from textbooks, and the places I've traveled to see, were put to waste as I stepped onto unknown territory. I felt helpless, and wanted desperately to go home. I could have been with my family, a cup of cappuccino and the newspaper within my grasps. However, even though I experienced culture shock, I believe hands-on education is still the best teacher.
Soon after arriving in a new country, I was caught between my old values from my native culture, and the new values of the host culture. I was pressured to adapt in order to survive. Adjusting to a new culture, new system, and new life, was not an easy task. But my ability to adapt allowed me to face any obstacle. My goals were always set whenever I face any challenge. I never let my self-esteem falter.
I love to feel challenged because it makes me work twice as hard. I proved this by obtaining my second undergraduate degree (BA in Liberal Arts/Psychology) and graduating with the highest honors. I always tried to reach for the stars. But the opposite side of the coin is nostalgia. Something that is present when I am working, studying, eating, and even when sleeping.
Being an international student among fellow foreigners in the US made me realize how much social support and understanding was necessary to challenge and achieve academically in other countries. By considering the problems students have in the US, and by developing different approaches and solutions, I believe I can be a great counselor in a multicultural world. Just by the thought of it made me eager to learn more, and increase the repertoire of counseling styles and skills alongside others.
During my senior year of college, I conducted an extensive literature review on “psychosocial adjustment issues of international students and the need for social support”. I refined my research skills in data analysis using SPSS, as well as my ability to present my findings in the manner of an accepted professional research paper.
I enjoyed conducting the literature review the most, approaching it as a scavenger hunt and considering the quantity and quality of information found as my reward. This project, along with my other undergraduate studies, prepared me for the rigors of graduate study and the parameters of successful research. Professional experiences, research, and undergraduate courses at Menlo College have further stimulated my interest in psychology and reinforced my conviction that I am well suited to the field.
Although these varied research experiences have provided me with fundamental skills, I still feel the need for more training. In retrospect, college was one of the most stimulating periods in my life, and I found tremendous determination to achieve my goal of helping others through the study of psychology.
Looking from the prospective of a student gave me more retrospection on my teaching profession, which I love so much. However, life is an intriguing railroad with many stations. Some of those stations I got off at were good experiences and some bad. But over all, it has been a journey that continues on.
Helping others reach their goals, having a positive attitude, and dedicating both personal and professional growth were the traits I held when I entered Menlo College. They remain as an integral part of my work ethic today.
My international student experience, and many research projects, have helped me achieve a theoretical foundation for the important work of helping students succeed in college. We must have an understanding and compassion for diverse student populations. I learned this from the years of teaching experience. Furthermore, I am able to demonstrate my strengths and abilities to relate effectively with individuals from all levels and cultural backgrounds.
These experiences have not only taught me valuable lessons about student life, but have also reinforced my interest in pursuing my career in counseling psychology. Graduate school will enable me to develop vital research and counseling skills, and the solid academic background that I need to be a successful counselor and researcher.
A master's program in counseling psychology will not only cultivate and refine my involvement in research, but also equip me to deal with the challenges of an MS program. The combination of MFT and my counseling degree will enable me to fulfill my career aspirations and passion for helping students in need. Furthermore, I can prepare myself in facing the complexity of psychotherapy and unpredictability when dealing with emotional issues of individuals and their families.
I have all the traits needed to be a good counselor. Undoubtedly, my devotion to my education will be the greatest asset of all. Being able to successfully help individuals in the future will be my greatest reward for the effort and investment I will put myself into
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