Masa Akari spent her early childhood in Pennsylvania, USA and then moved with her family abroad to Jordan. She decided she wanted to return to the United States for her higher education and is now a junior at Illinois College (IC) majoring in Communication and Rhetorical Studies.  

Masa tells SchoolApply about her experience at Illinois College.

Higher Education in the United States

Masa always knew that she wanted to pursue her higher education in the United States. She appreciated the academic environment in the US and she was looking for a college where the students and faculty were welcoming and diverse. She applied to various schools in different states and during this process, her counsellor recommended Illinois College (IC) as a good fit for her. IC is a private liberal arts college located in Jacksonville, Illinois – a small town set amidst beautiful lakes and fertile farmland.

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Settling Into Campus

“It’s never easy moving to college, whether you live down the street or across the globe - college always has its challenges,” Masa shares. Her trials mostly revolved around fitting in and finding a place for herself in the small campus town.

Masa grew up in a crowded city, so the adjustment to small-town life was not easy for her. She was unaccustomed to living in a place with no public transportation system. Despite this, she quickly learned how to get around town and also made friends who were happy to drive her about when she needed a ride.

IC works hard to accommodate students who do not own a car by organising buses and shuttles when required. For example, IC schedules shuttles every weekend that takes students to Wal-Mart, the local hypermarket and provide rides to and from the airport and train stations during school breaks. There are even shuttles jetting off to the state capital of Springfield every two weeks so students can explore the area and do some shopping. “The Student Activities Board also does a great job of hosting various events on the weekends so whether you’re spending your evenings on campus or off, you’re bound to have fun,” Masa says.  

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Embracing Diversity: International Action Team

Masa found it interesting that most IC students hail from small towns and similarly, they were intrigued when they learned she was from Jordan. “It is empowering to break some of the stereotypical ideas that people have about where you are from and the life that you live there - it’s always good to bring something new to the table,” Masa reflects.

Since her arrival at Illinois College, Masa tells us that the meaning and importance of diversity has magnified in her eyes. After her experience as an international student moving abroad to study, Masa decided that she wanted to be a part of the IC International Action Team and help future overseas students transition into life at Illinois College. She began helping with international orientation and later, she was given the official title of International Student Ambassador for Illinois College. “Not only do I assist with orientation, but I am also in charge of hosting small events and mentoring students through their transition period at Illinois College. I’m passionate about my job, and it reminds me of why I decided to go into the field of communication as well as prepare me for potential careers,” she says.

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Learning Through the Debate Team

Besides being involved with the International Action Team, Masa is also on the college debate team. Joining the debate team was quite out of character for her, as she is not a naturally competitive person. “I never liked the concept of competition – however, I wanted to improve my rebuttal skills and overall knowledge about policy making. Even though debate is a stressful activity, it has done wonders for my critical thinking skills!” she explains. As a part of the debate team, she travels around the state and country and has made some amazing friends.

Favourite Class: “If I had to choose, it would be my sociology class. My professor had a way of making class fun, and it was probably my most enlightening course. I always walked into the classroom with high spirits.”

Favourite Event: “Every semester the Student Activities Board hosts a trip off-campus. I get excited about this event as there is always a new destination. Once it was a baseball game and another time we went to an amusement park. No matter where we go, the college always organises a fun getaway from campus for the students to enjoy.”

Describe IC in Three Words: “Friendly, traditional and diverse.”

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