I chose LMU because "they looked at me as a [whole] person"
Caroline Souza on overcoming language barriers and building confidence at Lincoln Memorial University.
Lincoln Memorial University is a private liberal arts school located in a beautiful and historic area of the state of Tennessee in the United States. The university offers over 30 different majors to its students and small class sizes for guaranteed personal attention in the classroom.
SchoolApply interviewed college senior, Caroline Souza, for insight into her experience at Lincoln Memorial University.
LINCOLN MEMORIAL UNIVERSITY
Location: Harrogate, Tennessee (USA)
Student Name: Caroline Souza
From: São Paulo, Brazil
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hi, my name is Caroline Souza, and I am 24 years old. I am originally from São Paulo, Brazil. I am a senior in the media communications program at Lincoln Memorial University and I am also part of the university soccer team.
What is your academic background like?
My entire education before university was completed in Brazil, from kindergarten all the way through high school. In Brazil, we take English classes in high school, but they are very basic. I really do not think I learned much more than counting from one to 10, a couple of colors, and the names of a few objects.
How did you hear about Lincoln Memorial University and what made you decide to study in the United States?
The dream of going to America came with the opportunity to play soccer at the college level. After receiving offers from a couple of schools, I decided to attend Lincoln Memorial University, I chose LMU because it not only offered me a good athletic opportunity, but it also presented me with a very strong academic and professional plan.
In order to attend LMU, you had to pass the TOEFL test. Did this present any challenges for you?
The TOEFL is a very complex test that will evaluate your level of English in different situations related to a college environment. The test is divided into four different sections: reading, speaking, listening, and writing. The test is four to five hours long and it definitely presented me with a challenge.
As I mentioned before, I knew very little English – nothing really – but I basically locked myself in my room for about six weeks and studied 24/7 for that period. My family couldn’t afford a private teacher or a course for me to take, but if you can, I totally encourage you to hire a private teacher or take a course. Just remember one thing: nobody can help you more than yourself.
After six weeks of intense studying, I passed the test.
What were your first few days at LMU like?
Coming to LMU was a dream come true. It was like being a character in a movie: the flight, the road up to campus, arriving on campus, walking into my apartment, and settling down in the room I would call home for the next four years were all magical moments I will never forget. Everything seemed exactly like the college movies I had seen, with one single and very important difference: there were no subtitles when people were talking.
If you are a native English speaker, or you are already fluent in English, you may not relate much to my experiences. However, you will want to keep reading to understand why attending LMU has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Did you have any problems adjusting to life in a new country and university?
More than telling you the classes and the school facilities at LMU, I’d rather tell you all about what actually makes this place unique, and there is no better moment to evaluate a place than when you are in a moment of need.
Arriving in a new country with a new culture and habits, and especially, with a completely different language, can be very scary, stressful, and intimidating.
That was my life. I had no clue what people were saying around me; I couldn’t even ask for help because I didn’t know how to. The fear of failing and not being able to learn the language was overwhelming, and many times this fear almost paralyzed me. And it was in this situation that LMU’s Department of International Programs changed everything.
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How did the Department of International Programs help you when you were facing these language difficulties?
Dr. Robin Antepara, or Dr. Robin, as she asked me to call her from day one, at the Department of International Programs was the foundation of everything I’ve accomplished at LMU and in the United States in general.
Dr. Robin patiently walked me through my schedules, helped me communicate with my professors, and she even gave me private classes before the semester started to help me with basic communication skills. Many times, I left these classes crying out of frustration, but I never felt uncomfortable coming back. Dr. Robin was always so patient and helpful. She helped me develop study methods and prepare for classes. One thing I will never forget – she told me to keep a journal and write in it daily and then she would read it after a specific period of time. The journal was not only a tool which she used to correct my grammar and vocabulary, but she also used it to check up on me as a person.
What has your overall experience been like as an international student at Lincoln Memorial University?
The reason LMU became my first choice was because they didn’t only see the athlete I could be, or the student, they also looked at me as a person. They were aware of the challenges international students can face such as homesickness, adapting to the food, language issues, etc. At LMU, I didn’t feel like a statistic or like any other student. The school recognized me as an individual with specific needs. Later on, I understood that Dr. Robin was only a small part of the “caring culture” LMU cultivates among its staff, and this culture reaches the students, parents, and the entire college community.
My process of learning English and adapting to the American culture was an opportunity for me to see that here, at LMU, they are not only graduating students, they are also shaping individuals with good values and instincts.
What is the most important thing that you have learned from LMU?
I could list many skills that I’ve learned in my editing classes, speech classes, or practical classes, but I always think that I could have learned these skills even in a different academic institution. So, to answer this question, I choose to highlight something that I believe makes this place so special – at LMU, I learned how to learn.
It seems like a very weird statement, but I honestly believe it’s probably the most valuable skill I have.
The ability to learn and know the process of “how to learn” makes you capable of learning anything. This skill not only helped me, but made me capable of helping others.
Through my years at LMU, I saw many other international students go through the same struggles I went through, and in the same way I did, they received help from professors, staff and students. Eventually, I found myself in a position where I could help others as well. I believe that is what makes LMU such a unique institution: they have created a “cycle of help” on campus. It never ends and it continues through each and every one of us.
What would you say to international students who are considering studying at LMU?
Today, three and a half years after I arrived at LMU for the first time, I feel so much more mature, experienced, and prepared to make a real impact in the world around me.
I remember reading many students’ experiences – just as you are now – trying to find a story in which I could see myself, but they all looked and sounded so much better than how I viewed myself. I never thought of myself as a person that could overcome so much or even write a story worth telling. The whole experience gives me better insight on the statement “we only understand how strong we are when the only option we have is to be strong.”
I am not better than you or smarter. I was just like you – a person with a dream – and I decided to make it come true. I hope you can make the same choice, and hopefully, continue the cycle we have here at Lincoln Memorial University.
If you are interested in applying to Lincoln Memorial University, click on its SchoolApply profile page and start your application now!