From Our Scholar Blogs:

Ariane’s First Year at Beloit

Ariane Irafasha, a rising sophomore at Beloit College, reflects on her first year at college in the United States. 
It has now been almost a year since I came to the U.S. and I have never stopped learning.

​Everything is going by so fast! I remember the waves of emotions I felt on my first plane ride like it was yesterday. I went from being excited to nervous to lonely. Fortunately for me, I am lucky to be in good hands because of the support of my caring and loving mentors, SHE-CAN big sisters, and the SHE-CAN team. I am thankful for each one of them. 

When I finally arrived at Beloit College, everything sunk in. Studying abroad was always one of my biggest dreams and now I had finally achieved it. My family was so proud of me and I was also proud of myself. My mentors Maureen and Gayle helped me move in and bought me clothes and other freshman essentials. On move-in day, Chelsea (another SHE-CAN sister at Beloit) helped us move my stuff into my room. I’m glad I got to meet her before she left for her study abroad program in Amsterdam. 

One of my first dinners in the U.S., featuring my mentors Cara and Martha, my SHE-CAN sister Phidor, and some of my mentors friends. I love this picture because it reminds me of how warmly I was welcomed when I first arrived in the U.S.

After everything had been put in place, we said our goodbyes and my mentors had to go back home. Then, the ball was in my court. The environment, the food, the class dynamic – almost everything was so new to me. Even so, I was determined to conquer everything and explore as much as I could. Thanks to the orientation week we had prior to the beginning of the classes, I was able to meet friends, learn where to find resources on campus, and learn more about the Beloit College community.

A normal day at Beloit College

I managed to apply for a position in BISCS (Beloit International Student Career Services), a club aimed at helping current international students at Beloit College who are struggling with finding job and internship opportunities after graduation. It is also designed to be a connection between the current students and the alumni to expand their network. I’m really proud to have worked my way up to the position of Treasurer. I really enjoy helping my fellow students. 

I also got involved with other clubs like French ClubBlack Students United, the International Students Club, and the Japanese Club
During my first semester, it was hard to adjust to being in classes with juniors and seniors because I felt like they knew so much more than I did. I finally realized we’re all learning the material together and I shouldn’t be intimidated.

My first winter in the United States

Then, the winter came and I was so excited to experience my first winter in the Midwest. I had never seen snow before or felt that type of cold back home. I didn’t know, however, that after a week of snow, all the excitement would fade away because I would have to go to classes in many layers of clothes, a pair of gloves, a beanie, and boots. 

During winter break, I visited all my mentors and the whole experience was incredible. Given that I had only spent a few months in the U.S., getting to go to New Jersey, New York, California and Connecticut was a big adventure.
Getting to explore New York was definitely a highlight. I enjoyed visiting different museums, going to theaters, visiting Brooklyn, going to the Metropolitan Opera with Martha, taking a ferry to Ellis Island with Maureen and her boyfriend, and making cookies with Maureen’s niece. I also enjoyed watching Alvin Ailey dancers with Voleak (my SHE-CAN sister). When I was in the Bay Area, I had so much fun watching the football match at Levi’s Stadium with Cara. 

Me at Ellis Island with my mentor Maureen and her boyfriend (now fiancé!)


My mentor Cara and me at Levi’s Stadium

I celebrated my first Christmas in the U.S. with my mentor Gayle and her husband, Jim. We drove to Connecticut to see Jim’s brother and celebrate Christmas there. It was a big family gathering. There were 30-40 people at the party which was a very different celebration than what I was used to. When my family gets together for holidays, it’s usually only my parents, my brothers, and a few relatives. I wish we took pictures, but the night was too fun to even think about cameras or phones. That Christmas was truly remarkable. 
After Christmas, the winter went by quickly and the next thing I knew I was in my last semester of freshman year. The semester started off well and I was loving all my classes.
My friends and I took a trip to Madison and I enjoyed visiting other parts of Wisconsin besides Beloit. We toured the the state capital building, saw the beautiful Mendota River, and visited the University of Madison-Wisconsin.
It was only a few days after that trip that  COVID-19 began spreading across the world. Soon, my school transitioned to online education. It was hard at the beginning, but I gained the experience of studying online which I think is valuable.

Getting Thai food with friends in Beloit

When I thought I was getting familiar with everything, George Floyd was killed by the police and shook the world. This incident made a lot of people furious, including myself. As an African who is still learning the history of racism in America, I find it very saddening to see a police officer kill a fellow person because of their skin color. Seeing people around the world protesting for black people’s rights made me realize that racism is also a big dangerous virus that people need to find a better solution for. I hope that black people like me will have rights without any judgment of our skin color. 
Although it has been tough recently, I managed to find an interesting virtual internship based in South Africa. The organization aims to educate the people of Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa on how to tackle real-life challenges through the screening of influential movies and documentaries. Though I have just started, I enjoy the work and am motivated by the impact they are making in those countries. 
Overall, my experience in the U.S. has been great. My friends at Beloit and my SHE-CAN sisters make my journey easier and fun. I believe I will keep learning and educating myself on the most important things that matter in life. I am grateful for SHE-CAN for the immense support and efforts they put in to make sure we are doing well.