segunda-feira, 17 de agosto de 2020

Version 2.105

I spent the day very content. Today marks the 25th anniversary that I arrived in the U.S. for the first time. I remember landing at JFK and being disappointed at how dark and impersonal everything seemed, but then I had a layover in Cincinnati, OH, and it was like entering a total different country. Throughout the airport, silvered hair old ladies drove carts everywhere, transporting people from place to place. And everyone was so nice and greeted you as soon as they saw you. I arrived that evening in Oklahoma City and I had never been in a place that hot at night. 

My TOEFL (Test of English as a Second Language) was scheduled for the following day, which I only learned that night. I had brought a practice book to study and do exercises, but I did not have time. I still have that book. I woke up early because of jet lag and also because I was worried about the exam. Tina Henry, from the Office of International Programs, which no longer exists, picked me up and drove me to the exam. She was the most easy going person I had ever met. Anything made her giggle and she was just on the ball. I have yet to meet someone that types as quickly or memorized as many phone numbers as her.

She confessed that she had been concerned because she did not know how good my English was, but once she met me, she felt confident that I'd be OK. My TOEFL score was 607 and I only needed 500 to attend undergrad classes (the maximum score on the paper based TOEFL is 677), so Tina was super-happy for me and even said that many Americans would likely not pass the TOEFL. Considering that I had not studied and I had just arrived, I guess it was pretty good.

Tina drove me around campus to do all sorts of things: open a Bursars' account, enroll in classes, get a room in a residential hall, and I also got to meet everyone at the Office of International Programs, which was where I'd be having a part-time job that semester: 12 hours a week making $5.15/hour. That job was amazing. I learned so much about studying in the U.S. and how the U.S. worked, plus they taught me how to answer phones and do customer service.

The dorm I ended up getting was Stout Hall and I think that might have been influenced by Tina, since she had heard good things about it. It was one of the cheapest dorms on campus, since it did not have central air-conditioning, but the rooms were individual and there was a sink in the room. I think it cost about $250/month. Stout had been a female dorm back in the day when Julia Stout was in charge of it, but when I moved in it was a co-ed dorm and you had to be a junior (third year student) or higher to live there.

My room had a window facing east and in those first few days, it was so hot that it was very hard to sleep, plus I was still jet-lagged so I would wake up as soon as the sun would rise. The first few days were quiet because I was still learning my way around, but there were so many activities in the dorm to welcome the new students. One night, they cooked hamburgers in the veranda for us. Then they had older students show us around the campus so that we knew where to buy our books and where to go for our classes, computer labs, the library, etc. 

I have to say that Oklahoma State was one of the best organized universities that I have ever seen. Not only did the university have an army of drivers and volunteers to pick us at the airport (the ride, which was 45 min. to one hour, cost $75), they also purchased bed linens for our dorm room, which we then paid back.

My original plan was to only stay one semester, but I ended up extending my stay. And during the second semester, I started to make arrangements to apply to grad school. I went to the Econ and AgEcon departments, spoke with professors, and got information on the graduate school requirements. Then in the Fall of 1997, I started grad school in the U.S. and I never returned to Portugal. Oops...

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