Episode #3 – Adapting to a new life as an international student

Episode #3 – Adapting to a new life as an international student

What are the challenges that international students face when starting their BMCC journey? In this podcast episode, Cindy Pierre, a nursing major from Haiti, shares about how she overcame her challenges to achieve her dreams.

Cindy Pierre Interview for the Student Voices Podcast

Interview transcripts

Raquel: 

WELCOME TO STUDENT VOICES, A PODCAST THAT PRESENTS INSPIRING STORIES OF BMCC STUDENTS. THIS SEASON, WE ARE LAUNCHING A SERIES OF INTERVIEWS ABOUT THE CHALLENGES IN DEVELOPING A SENSE OF BELONGING AND CREATING A COMMUNITY AS A BMCC STUDENT. IN THIS EPISODE, IQRA SHEIK, FROM THE OPENLAB TEAM, INTERVIEWS CINDY PIERRE, A NURSING MAJOR FROM HAITI THAT CAME TO NEW YORK RIGHT BEFORE THE 2020 LOCKDOWN.

CINDY’S STORY IS INSPIRING, SPECIALLY FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS GETTING STARTED IN THEIR BMCC JOURNEY.

LET’S LISTEN TO HER STORY.

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Iqra: We can start off with a brief introduction with who you are. So if you want to introduce yourself…

Cindy: Oh yes, definitely! My name is Cindy Saintine Pierre. Married and twenty-seven years old. I’ve been in BMCC since January 2020 actually I mean 2021…2022 yeah because I came here in 2020 and one very funny fact is that I used to be a radio presenter back in my country so when I received this message, I was like oh it’s some opportunity to like to you know-to get a mic… but yeah, I think that’s pretty all. I’m waiting to get into the Nursing program so that I can become a nurse umm maybe for like four to five, eight years. And after that I will do what I really want to do.

Iqra: Nice. Yea I saw from your instagram that…are you an artist?

Cindy: I am not an artist. What do you mean by that? Is it because of my artwork?

Iqra: Yea…yea your Instagram is filled with artwork …so

Cindy: I do like-I do love artworks but I am not an artist myself. I get them from Haitian artists.

Iqra: Okay. So you’re a collector.

Cindy: Exactly.

Iqra: Ok you’re a collector. Now I understand. 

Cindy: Hahaha yea.

Iqra: Umm…okay umm…so why BMCC? Why did you choose BMCC and why are you declaring your major to be nursing? If you want to share that.

Cindy: Of course. Umm…BMCC was not my idea, it was my husband’s idea because he lives here in the States and I came here back in 2020. So I spent like one year at home with the Pandemic. But he loved BMCC. He was way more excited than I was actually. He loved the school. He was like “you’re gonna love this school…I know you’re an outspoken person, you’re gonna love it”. That was his idea because he had a cousin that went to BMCC, but so far it is good. It is great for me. But I was scared in the first place because back in time I didn’t know English and I’m still learning. And people at home, they speak Creole-Haitain creole all the time. They don’t speak English. For my first class, I had an asynchronous chemistry class. Haha, and then I learned what asynchronous was on the first day, I learned that I would have to learn everything by myself then just come to school for the lab. And I was like, I don’t speak English. How am I going to do that? And since I made it happen, I was like “ok, then I can do whatever I want. If I did this, I can pull off everything that I want to”. And this is why I decided to do nursing. And I also want to do nursing so I need to give back to my community back in Haiti and I really need to create a community. And I think that they need help in the healthcare system so maybe if I do nursing here or public health and things like that I can go back home from time to time to help people, to train and to raise awareness about health in the country. Yea.

Iqra: That’s awesome.

Cindy: Mhmm.

Iqra: You’re like a superwoman.


Cindy: I am, I am.

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Raquel: 

IN CINDY’S EXPERIENCE, WE CAN NOTICE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS FACE WHEN STARTING AN ACADEMIC JOURNEY AT BMCC. IN ADDITION TO QUICKLY EVOLVING HER ENGLISH PROFICIENCY AND ADAPTING TO NEW LEARNING METHODS, CINDY OVERCAME THE GREATEST CHALLENGES OF ALL: LEAVING BEHIND HER FEARS AND HAVING SELF-CONFIDENCE.

WE CAN ALSO SEE HOW THE IMPACT OF HAVING A CLEAR PLAN FOR THE FUTURE GAVE CINDY CLARITY ABOUT HER DAY-TO-DAY DECISIONS.

LET’S ALSO REMEMBER THAT CINDY CAME A FEW DAYS BEFORE THE LOCKDOWN. THINGS WERE HARD AT THAT TIME, SPECIALLY FOR INTERNATIONALS WAITING FOR PAPERS TO BE RELEASED.

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Cindy: I didn’t have any friend. I didn’t have anybody. And I sped one, almost two years waiting for my paper because I came here with a VISA fiancée, so they give you the VISA at home, then you get married within 3 months following you come in here in the US, and then after that they start sending you your Social Security Number, work paper so you can work, while you are waiting for your official paper, like a Green Card. But guess what, I came here on February 13th, two weeks later we got the lock down. So I spent one and a half years at home. So once I got my green card I was like “no. I’m going…im going to school.” Even if I have to go like tomorrow i’m going to school … which school can take me now…what is the process? My husband was like “go to BMCC. I love it. I have a cousin that goes there, she loves it. So I think you’re going to like it because of the community.” And then the spot because it’s right in the middle of Manhattan and I only had to take like 1 train. And I didn’t know that much about New York city so I had to take one train that goes very close to campus…that was the ideal for me back in time.

Iqra: So it was just convenient…?

Cindy: Convenient, yes.

Iqra: You mentioned something about community. Do you feel that BMCC has a community there? Like do you feel that you belong?

Cindy: I do. I do. Not totally but I do. I really appreciate the effort that students are making at BMCC to make everybody feel…you know…to give the best that they can about the experience at the school. 

Cindy: But I don’t think there’s a haitian community. This is one thing I would like to work on maybe this upcoming semester since I’m going to have less classes. 

Iqra: So what advice can you give to students enrolling into BMCC? Or those thinking about coming to BMCC?


Cindy: For BMCC you don’t need to have it all figured out. You know exactly what you’re going through. I think when people are coming to BMCC, I think the first thing you should do is know what state you are in…what is your position…are you still looking for what you really want to do…do you know what you want to do…are you open to changes? Once you know these kinds of things, you know exactly which people you should get around you because this is very important. 

Cindy: Something that I saw that was very overwhelming for some students…in the beginning is you have a lot of offers… a lot of clubs… a lot to do for your first semester so pay attention to that. You really analyze the offer that you have and decide how you’re going to umm…you-know organize your time to know if you’re going to be part of this or part of that. And also about the classes…when people are choosing classes, I don’t think people should…even if you are an advisor… I think the question I would like someone to tell me to ask in my first semester is “what does this class will require in terms of effort, in terms of time”

For the past semester I had biology and I know that biology is a lot and since English is definitely not my native language… I’ve been speaking this language for only two years and I was like ok…I’m going to be dealing with the language itself and the biological term so that’s going to be a double effort for me as an immigrant. 

Iqra: I’ve definitely gone through something like that…like in my first years of college which was at BMCC…I took fifteen credits and I just took as many classes as I could and I couldn’t handle it. All of them were so different and hard all at the same time that my mind was everywhere all at this…you know…

Cindy: Exactly…and it can make you doubt yourself. Like what you are, what can you do, what can you actually—it can be very…like overwhelming. So I think every decision that people make in BMCC, go with what you have and go with what you need and the way you know. Not what other students are doing…not what works for previous students but what do you have…where are you, and where do you need to get to where you want to—to where you want to be…

Iqra:

To me this also sounds like a lot of … like the advice to me sounds like when someone says don’t compare yourself to someone else you know…because you have to figure out how you can work and what is best for you. 

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Raquel:

IN CINDY’S STORY, WE COULD LEARN ABOUT THE DIFFICULTIES OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS IN ADAPTING TO A NEW LIFE AND CREATING A COMMUNITY AT BMCC. WE COULD ALSO SEE HOW FOCUS AND GRIT CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN ACHIEVING SUCCESS.

THIS EPISODE IS PART OF OUR PODCAST SERIES ABOUT THE CHALLENGES IN DEVELOPING A SENSE OF BELONGING AND CREATING A COMMUNITY AS A BMCC STUDENT. THANK YOU FOR LISTENING TO THIS INTERVIEW, AND PLEASE SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS WITH US. YOU ARE ALSO INVITED TO SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN OUR PODCAST. YOUR VOICE IS IMPORTANT.

I AM RAQUEL NERIS FROM THE OPENLAB TEAM, AND I WILL SEE YOU IN THE NEXT EPISODE OF THE STUDENT VOICES PODCAST.

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