Focus on International Students: Overcoming a language barrier, Jenny is driven to succeed

Jenny IsraelThis is the third in a series of stories on SUNY Broome’s international students, who come from all over the globe. The college will celebrate International Week from Nov. 13 through 17. International students will share the cuisines of their homeland at the Dining Hall, and will visit the BC Center to read children’s books from their home countries.

Today we meet Jenny Israel, a Nursing student from Haiti.

Degrees in health sciences and nursing are challenging and technical, requiring a good deal of study and dedication. Imagine doing your homework in a language that’s not your own, translating the content into your native tongue and then back as you complete the assignment.

Then you’ll understand some of the realities faced by international students such as Jenny Israel. Now a student in the Nursing program, she graduated in May with a degree in Health Sciences and a certificate in phlebotomy.

“I studied for 14 years in French. We speak French and Creole in Haiti, sometimes a little Spanish and Portuguese,” she explained. “When I came here in 2014, it was really hard for me. I translated my notes into French and Creole before I studied them in English.”

Homework that likely took an hour for her peers took more three times as long due to the language barrier. Sometimes she went to bed at 2 a.m. Israel’s study schedule doesn’t leave her a lot of time for campus life and fun outside the classroom, but that’s okay: Each long day is leading her closer to her dream.

Israel grew up in Port au Prince. Like many Haitians, her life was changed forever by the catastrophic earthquake of 2010.

“I lost my mom, I lost my place, I lost family and friends,” she said.

She witnessed medical providers come to the island nation in an effort to help, and decided that this would be her future path: to study medicine, in the hopes of helping people in need. However, it’s tough to get into the government school and Israel ended up studying marketing instead, until she was presented with a different opportunity – SUNY Broome.

Her brother was already at the school, studying Computer Security and Forensics.

“He said, ‘Jenny, you will love it,’” Israel recounted, and he was right. Her brother has since moved to Albany, where he has a job and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree, although he frequently visits his sister in Binghamton.

While Israel is grateful that her brother is close, it was tough to leave her father behind in Haiti, only four years after losing her mom, she acknowledged.

Her ultimate goal is to enter the field of gerontology and take care of the elderly. As part of her nursing studies, she recently did a rotation at the Susquehanna Nursing Home that she deeply appreciated. Taking care of the elderly makes you consider the deeper lessons of life, she said.

She remains focused and driven, taking 18 credits during her last two semesters and working hard to keep her GPA high. “I don’t sleep at all,” she said with a smile.

She has received support from the campus community. When she arrived on campus in 2014, she met Shaina Louis, a fellow nursing student from Haiti, who helped her navigate campus in a language she understood. Now, Jenny is paying that generosity forward by helping new students from Haiti when they arrive on campus, a role she is happy to fill.

“I don’t know how to describe it, the way they support you. They helped me a lot,” she said of the people she met during her time at SUNY Broome. “I like the way they make you feel. Wherever you’re from, it’s your home. I love that.”