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Winning Essay

Andria Choi
Augustana College
Sioux Falls, SD
(Instructor: Nancy Dickinson)

What is Master Student Success?

A survivor of a refugee camp finds a home again in the World. He started his education in a refugee camp in Kenya. He started school by sitting on stones, and he wrote on the floor where there were no chairs and benches for students. I sat on stones until I completed my Primary School. I also completed my two classes toward a Secondary School diploma. I think that there are qualities of success in these efforts.

Success is a broad term used by people to express their personal thoughts and feelings. To me success means being constant to my responsibilities for my life and staying straight with my dreams of helping my relatives and friends in Sudan. I lived in a refugee camp for about nine years with nobody to given me advise, but I put my mind and my guts to work to make valuable decisions and evaluate my behavior. Even my daily routines of getting up, brushing my teeth, taking a shower, and going to school was important to make my dreams a reality.

My life experiences have made me stronger and energetic enough to overcome the obstacles in my life. In the refugee camp, I made up my mind to focus on my main target: my future. I had lost my parents in the civil war in Sudan and ended up in the refugee camp in the neighboring county of Kenya. So I learned how to make decisions and take responsibilities for making my life better, avoiding distractions such as soccer, the cinema, and long conversations with other people.

In 2001 I had a golden chance for resettlement. I was accepted by the United States government as a refugee. I came on May 30th 2001. I did not know anybody in America, so the Immigration and Naturalization Service settled me in South Dakota. I came from an area where the average temperature is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit to Sioux Falls, where in the winter the temperature is 20 degrees below zero. I had never seen snow before.

The Lutheran Social Services rented me an apartment and gave me other services upon my arrival in Sioux Falls. So that I could fit into the system, I had orientation classes about how to behave in American culture, including basic English, job searching, and interview skills. I enrolled in Lincoln High School in 2002, because I intended to get an education as something that would support me in the future.

My intention is that education will change my entire life. I work and go to school at the same time. I am doing that because I am responsible for my own affairs-nobody tells me what I must do. I go to work after school because I pay rent and pay my insurance. It is a sign of success. I did that until I completed my high school career. Now I go to college and still struggle for my bachelor's degree while continuing to work. On Saturdays and Sundays, I work 16 hours at the HyVee grocery store. During the week, I spend my time studying: highlighting, taking notes, and reading a large amount of material.

By involving myself with others, I have learned how to share the tools for success, and I have acquired the ability of being successful and teaching others how to overcome their obstacles. During high school, I went to a conference in Yankton with some other Sudanese refugees, and we talked with a group of people about how we survived when we lived in Africa. My cousin came to the United States in 1992, but he had been drinking and getting in trouble for several years. When I came in 2001, I helped counsel him and told him about the death of his father in Sudan. He quit drinking and is now working.

So for me, success means being happy and being proud of what I have accomplished in my entire life. As I started my school by sitting on stones for my chairs and benches and writing on the floor for my exercise books, I have made a conscious and beneficial choice not to take education for granted. Education is my tool for success.