Jamaican native Earl Lee is in his third year at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.
"My decision to come to the United States was that I wanted to experience something different, get a first world education and try and broaden my scope beyond Jamaica," he said. "I've been there for 18 years and I've seen what it has to offer and I wanted to get something new."
Since attending Drake, Earl says he has grown personally as well as academically due to the variety of organizations and campus activities.
"Coming here as any student, as an American or international [student] in your first year it is very difficult to get involved on campus and I think that is kind of a cross-cultural [thing] with all different kind of schools across the country, but I got involved in the residence hall association here on campus and that's how I became a RA [Residences Assistant] my sophomore year which I'm still doing right now," he said.
"I realize that Drake has open so many different opportunities for me in terms of broaden my leadership styles and skills. Being able to grow through there is an academy here called 'Adam's Academy' where it is a leadership program and I was able to go through that program in my sophomore year and it was great because I get to meet different leaders on campus," he said. "We have over 160 different organizations here so being able to get involved in one of these organizations has been great for me."
"Outside of organizations on campus the involvement that Drake has with the Des Moines community is amazing," he continued. "The community service that we get to do, there is Big Brothers close to us, the Boys and Girls club, there are refugees centers here so getting involved with those organizations as well as on campus, I'm involved in the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, it's recently coming back on Drake's campus and I am really excited to be a part of a bond brotherhood. "
Earl says having the chance to explore more than one field of study before fully deciding on what he will major in is something he would not have been able to do back home.
"I came here originially as a politics major, sorry, as a psychology major and I have moved around the college campus to different schools. [The] business school I tested that out and I eventually settled on being a politics and sociology double major. The reason why I choose this is that I have always been interested in sociology even while in high school, but not given the opportunity in high school to explore the field, then coming here and being able to explore the field some more. With politics I don't speak politics very often, but I like international relations and studying about the particular systems so that is how I ended up with both of these fields and I'm looking forward to going to graduate school to study criminology in a year-and-a-half.
May 2011 is when Earl will graduate from Drake University. He says studying abroad is something of importance for any student regardless if they are foreign or not.
"Studying abroad in general its an amazing opportunity for anyone. It allows you to broaden your sense of self, it allows you to find out what you like, your creativity and it diversifies you and your viewpoint and it gives you a great cultural experience," he said.
"Being here at Drake for me I think if I had gone to any other school, hopefully it would have been the same thing, but one thing I like about Drake is that we have over 50 different countries on campus and so being able to interact with students from Ghana, Nigeria, Russia and those kind of places is great so being able to gain an opportunity to see diverse viewpoints is amazing. In Jamaica it's more Jamaicans there and people from the Caribbean which doesn't help to diversify the viewpoints that we may have. So it's given me that outlook on the world and it's been really amazing."
After graduation, Earl knows what is next for him and that is..... "Right now I am setting my sight on studying sociology and doing a PhD program. Hopefully, I will be looking at criminology and deviance and see how that affects social stratification and inequality in societies. Hopefully I will be doing that here in the U.S.," he said. "I am looking at a couple of schools right in the Midwest to make an easy transition for myself."