Elene Beridze from Georgia: Studying Political Science - Criminal Law at Manhattanville College in New York
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
Small countries tend to have confined and uniform societies, without much excitement in everyday life. I spent 18 years in that uniformity, and I realized I could do better, so when I got the chance to study abroad I seized it. The education system in the USA is very flexible, offering courses and topics that broaden our worldviews, helping us realize our true selves and dreams. Luckily, I ended up here, steps away from New York City, which is full of everything I ever needed: diversity, opportunities, and excitement. It’s the capital of the world.
Why did you choose Manhattanville College?
I found out about Manhattanville College through my brother, who also went here. After all of the stories he told me about this place, about the people, the faculty, the students, I knew I had to come here. I fell in love with it more and more as years went by, and now as my graduation is approaching, I’m sad to leave this place behind. After all, it helped me grow into the adult that I am today.
Describe a day in a Manhattanville College student’s life.
Well, during the weekdays this is how it usually goes for me:
Wake up really early and work out a little bit, then breakfast, and then go to work for a couple of hours. After work I usually hang out with my friends, have lunch, and then go to my classes. Once I get out of my classes I go have dinner with my friends, taking over half of the cafeteria, being loud and noisy after a long day of responsibilities. After dinner, we usually have club meetings, and then depending if I have to wake up early, I either study and go to sleep, or hang out with my friends at our favorite spot.
The weekends, I assure you, are vastly different.
What would you say are the top five places to hang out at Manhattanville college?
Luckily, Manhattanville is a very friendly community, so you’ll see all kinds of people mingling in the same spots. My personal favorite would be the so-called Wall. We usually go there later in the day, and sit around on the tables and hang out. There’s not much to do there, but that’s where a lot of people go after a long day. The people are always friendly and loud, it’s always fun, music playing, people singing along and dancing ... There are other places to hang out too, the quad (where you can often see people playing ball and catch), the lake (where personally I like to go when I need some peace and quiet, and maybe paint a little bit), we also have our library, at the Library Cafe, where we like to go to study and discuss classes, maybe meet with our professors, have some Starbucks, or sit in front of the library and enjoy the sun. The fifth top place to hang out at Manhattanville college would be behind the castle, where we have huge fields and a perfect view of the sunset.
What do you do during the weekends?
Personally, I like to go to the city [New York City] every weekend. Manhattanville provides free transportation for the students to the city during the weekends, which is perfect. I really recommend to every student that they go as often as possible. I personally can never get enough of the city. There’s so much to do there: museums, parks, restaurants … But if I’m on a budget I usually go to White Plains, the town closest to our college. We also have free transportation to White Plains for students all week, almost the whole day. There’s also a lot to do there too, such as shopping (we have the huge Westchester Mall there, and two others), going to restaurants, hanging out at the movies, etc.
What do you wish you knew your freshman year?
Well, there’s a lot I wish I knew, but most importantly that our college offers on-campus jobs for international students. I spent all of my freshman year worrying about my budget, since I didn’t want to ask my parents to send me any money. I started working my sophomore year, but it would have been much easier if I worked my freshman year too.
How hard is it to adjust to a different culture and environment?
It’s not as scary and you think. I remember I was so excited, but also really anxious on my flight, worrying about making friends and getting on the right path in life. But then when I came here it all just happened on its own. The international student orientation helped me meet a lot of new people; it helped me to open up and enjoy my life here. Everything becomes easier after you make the first step, it takes courage - but it’s worth it.
Can you tell us more about your International Orientation?
I met most of my friends at the orientation. We had a lot of activities to help us get to know each other, and I remember at the last day of orientation we were all sitting in a circle on the quad at night, talking about what we want to do and what we expect our lives to turn out like. It was a great night. But overall the orientation was great, with barbeques, games, getting to know different people from different countries. It’s wonderful that international students have their own orientation. It helps us open up more.
Was it hard to adapt to such a drastic change in everyday language?
I grew up speaking three languages in my family, and started learning English when I was six, so when the time came the change wasn’t as drastic. But I know people who took a couple days or weeks to adjust well, but they always get through it. The key is to not only stick with kids who speak the same languages as you. Meet new people!
You had to start figuring your finances on your own, any advice for the incoming international students?
Yes, don’t buy what you won't use at least once a week. If you spend all your money decorating your dorm, you will not have enough left to have a good time with your friends. It was really hard to start budgeting; I was used to having my parents by my side every second and not having any worries. But when I had to do it on my own, I had some days where I had to stay in while my friends were out having fun. Be careful with your money!!
Final advice for potential students?
No matter how scared you are, just take a leap and jump into it. I promise, it will be the best thing you will ever do. After all, why just watch the sky, when you can reach for the stars.