From Albania to Zimbabwe: Course Reflections!

One of my classrooms (source:
One of My Classrooms 

Hi there! My name is Akira Camargo, a freshman hailing from Tokyo, Japan who will try to crack funny jokes and puns from time to time as I write posts for From Albania to Zimbabwe, the ins and outs of being at Brown from an international student’s perspective. Through my posts, you’ll be able to learn more about all things international here, ranging from international events at Brown (cool guest speakers, festivals and parties) to my thoughts on living in America for the first time (!!!), and a bunch of other interesting stuff as my first year at Brown unfolds. Hope you enjoy reading them!

Hey readers, I thought I would try something different this week. Instead of talking about my experiences as a Brown student in general, I thought it’d be great to tell you a little bit about the kind of classes I’m currently taking and how my role as an international student has helped/hurt/confused/excited me throughout my educational experience here.

So, as an undecided concentrator but somewhat interested in Education studies, here are my four courses I decided to take:

1. Sounds and Symbols: Introduction to Linguistic Anthropology (Anthropology Dept)

2. Belonging and Displacement: Cross Cultural Identities (Portuguese Studies Dept)

3. Cultures of the Contemporary Middle East (Middle East Studies Dept)

4. Fieldwork and Seminar in Secondary Education (Education Studies Dept)

As you can tell, I’ve been trying to take a great variety of courses my first semester. That is the beauty of Brown – being able to choose such awesome classes so freely. And to sum up my experience so far with these courses in a couple of words… I LOVE THEM ALL. Each and every class I’m taking has consistently challenged me, opened up new ideas and offered me new perspectives about some of the subtleties of life that I would never have considered.

Here are some of the many things I’ve realized after taking these courses for a bit more than a month:

  • I loved being part of the college culture where many of my fellow peers were not in the same year as me, a big change from my experience in high school.
  • You are encouraged to participate, often times a big portion of your grade, which was also a shocking factor
  • The professors will not enforce you to do the readings/assignments. It is up to you now (since you are no longer a ‘Child’!). This took some time to adjust to as well. Independence and relying on yourself is quite a big jump from life back at home.
  • It is always interesting to offer perspectives from your life into the topics at hand. Many professors and classmates love listening to stories about your background and lifestyle, and in many ways by articulating them, you are able to understand and connect what is being discussed in class with your life – making your classroom experience more engaging and interesting.
  • Always, always ask for help. Back in Japan, I always had a support system of teachers and advisors who would check up on me if I was struggling. That isn’t to say Brown doesn’t have this support network too. But as a college student, it is up to YOU to take the initiative to ask for help when you need it. I know in many non-US colleges, it is hard to access your professors out side of class. But the through the greatness that is Office Hours, you can arrange a time to meet your professor to chat, ask questions, have existential crises passionate conversations about your life, etc. Don’t ever be afraid to approach your professors!
  • Manage your time wisely. Always remember to organize and plan your work and balance that with sleep, socializing and work. It is harder than you think, but once you get a hang of it, you are good to go!

So that were some examples of how your life can be a bit different once you step into college. Just know that although it can be stressful, be aware that your background and lifestyle is what makes you special. And to take advantage of that in the classroom will make you a very successful student.

If you have any more questions, comments, suggestions of what I should write about or just want to chat, feel free to message me at 



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