Winona State international student talks personal experiences

The stress and fear associated with the choice of college is something that plagues almost every student.

Joel Odoom’s decision was more nerve-wracking than most as an international student in Minnesota.

Odoom was born in Ghana, Africa, and moved to Qatar in 2010 where his family still lives.

He had to adapt to a new environment and a new language, English, which he uses as his dominant language.

Leaving Ghana, his home country, proved difficult as his move would be permanent.

“Moving to Qatar was a real shocker for me,” Odoom said. “Leaving a place where I was comfortable with people with the same cultural background to going to a foreign place for me was very hard.”

A candid picture of Joel Odoom outside of Lourdes Hall at Winona State University West Campus.

Stepping outside of his comfort zone tested Odoom. He said it helped him experience life in a new way.

“It was a new opportunity and it helped me very, very much,” Odoom said.

Past obstacles moving to a “foreign” place early in life served as a factor in his decision to come to the US for college.

“I thought to myself, where’s the best place I would feel comfortable with?” Odoom said. “I thought the U.S. It seemed like the land of opportunities.”

He highlighted a few opportunities such as experiencing what the US will be like outside of what he sees in movies and television.

Why Minnesota?

Odoom said he wanted to stay near his aunt and uncle and his extended family who live in the twin cities and have a safety net if things don’t turn out the way he envisions them.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t have family in Minnesota. My parents didn’t want me to struggle.” Odoom said.

Why Winona State University?

Odoom said that he wanted to find a college that was affordable, dense with diversity and international students to make him feel more accepted and supported in the path he wanted to take in school.

Odoom analyzing a book that’s located at the Darrel Krueger Library at Winona State University.

Odoom said he didn’t want to feel like an outcast.

He wanted to become his own person, branch out and discover new things.

“I told myself, let me find the friends who I truly believe are my friends. It doesn’t matter if they’re from the same country as me or if they’re international or not.” Odoom said. “I’ll just do whatever to make myself feel comfortable.”

After being at Winona State for two years, Odoom’s perspective and expectations changed for the better.

He explained that he gets along with everyone.

People don’t see him as an international student, and he doesn’t feel as if he is confined to a clique.

“I feel as if I am an anomaly,” Odoom said.

Odoom hinted at the reason may be because he doesn’t have a “stereotypical” accent that other international students have.

“I feel as if they would treat me differently if that was the case.”

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