Swapsy Scholarship Program - Life as an International Student

Jozefina Shkoza ·

About the author: Jozefina is originally from Albania. She is studying at Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ), and her major is medical assisting and nursing. She is also one of the FSCJ Recognised Outstanding Students and Workers.

Life is like a journey full of challenges, choices, mistakes and lessons. The future depends strongly on what we say or what we do today, in the same way as the present reflects our choices from yesterday. What matters is to continue inspiring ourselves into what will make us better people, pushing ourselves to improve each yesterday, so one day each person can truly say: “I am proud of myself.” My arrival in the Unites States is the event that has shaped my life entirely and contributed to make me a worthier member of the community.


(picture provided by author)

I was born and raised in Albania. In 2015, I had just finished high school in my home country, Albania, and it was the moment to take the most important decisions of my life. I wanted to continue my education further and to study a medical program. My parents had always worked hard to provide for my brother and me; I believe just like every parent wants the best for his children. They suggested to me to study in the United States, which has the best education system in the world. To make all this a reality, they offered all their lifetime savings. They were ready to sacrifice their earnings to send me to study in the US. When I first heard my parents talking about that, I couldn’t believe it and I refused. On one side, it was the beginning of a great future and the opportunity to travel and to explore new possibilities for me. On the other side, I was feeling guilty because it wasn’t fair for my parents. They had worked hard all their lives and they still needed that income to continue living and to face the expenses of everyday life. I would often hear of the “New World” as something amazing, even though it was far away from home. It was something so beautiful that I thought it was unreachable for me, coming from a middle class Albanian family to get a degree in the United States. My parents have always encouraged me though, even when I was saying that I wouldn’t survive in a completely new environment. After four months, I found myself flying for the first time to the United States. Today, three years later I graduated with my AA degree with high honors and I am in a medical program, ready to continue to the next step towards my dream. 

The beginning was very hard as everything was new for me: language, culture, mentality and financial difficulties.  I grew up in a small town where everybody knew each other and every day would start with a warm greeting, “Si ke nje-Good morning”.  When I arrived here, I noticed it was different. The street was always busy and full of people; each person so deep in his thoughts that they would just walk by and rush their steps to work or school. I also understood to be different that when American people see each other they simply say “Hi”, while when we, Albanians, see someone we have to shake hands, and kiss each other on the cheeks, probably two times. After that, it goes on a long conversation about family and all the cousins. When I came to the United States, I grew to understand and respect individualism better, because I was coming from a collectivist society who had judging eyes even towards a young lady who simply wanted to go to school.  When I was back home, I didn’t have the chance to drive because that was unacceptable either.  In the United States, now I treasure the right of each person to pursue a career; I value the active and equal role that a woman has with a man, and respect the fact that an individual has the right to take the decisions for his life. A young lady behind the wheels, a young lady working hard and long hours outside the house to improve herself, has no reason to be ashamed. There is nothing wrong with that. 

When I came to America, I knew I had to work harder to make my parents proud and to make their sacrifice worthy.  The whole experience of being by myself while studying and working at the same time to help my parents and me pay for my education was very difficult, but later on I got used to it and it was very beneficial. Being far away from home and family made me learn to be responsible, to work and study very long hours, and to appreciate the importance of education as the only way to make me be “somebody” in the future. It made me a better human being who tries hard to improve herself every day and one day I can apply everything I learned to serve and help other people. The most important thing I learned is to believe in myself, just like Roman Price said: “If you are still looking for that one person to change your life, look in the mirror.”

My academic and professional goals are to graduate into the Medical Assisting and Nursing program so that one day I can assist people around me with what I learned. Being in Florida, at Florida State College specifically, has enriched my academic development and taught me many valuable lessons that I will take with me and practice back home, too. I was honored and privileged to have received my education here. I have also been working at the Student Success Center at Florida State College, where I assisted students with different issues/ difficulties they faced while enrolling. It was a very useful experience that taught me many things. Working with different people has greatly improved my communication skills while maintaining a sea of calm towards different types of behavior. Another benefit is that I have been working with students from different parts of the world, and that cultural exchange has enriched my understanding for new cultures. Every culture is unique, every person has his/her own characteristics and that should be respected. Although I was a student worker, working as such taught me the good principle of being responsible at work and having a good work ethic.


(picture provided by author)

I am inspired by my achievements at FSCJ as a Recognized Outstanding Student and Worker, graduating with high honors, and been on the president’s list every term to reach even higher, to do my best, to take full advantage while attending FSCJ and to make my dreams come true. 

Life is full of ups and downs that come to people suddenly. The events that happen in our life can shape our life and leave behind the result of our choices. The rest is in our hands, as we go towards achieving success. As Swami Vivekananda, the famous philosopher of 19th century said: “Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”