Pay it forward: Carolina helps her peers succeed in the classroom

Carolina Zhang

Carolina Zhang

Need help with Spanish or business-related topics? Carolina Zhang just might be your go-to tutor in the Learning Assistance Department.

Peer tutors are an integral part of academic services at SUNY Broome, helping Hornets ace subjects they may otherwise find difficult. Who better than a fellow student who has navigated those same hurdles?

Carolina knows this firsthand. An international student from Venezuela, she spoke little English when she came to SUNY Broome three years ago.

“The first day I came here, I couldn’t understand people,” said Zhang, the daughter of Chinese immigrants to Venezuela. “I’m very thankful for Sasha Morris, who was my tutor. She helped me a lot.”

Sasha, like Carolina, was able to speak both Spanish and Chinese. She helped the Business Administration major master English and the classroom materials she might have otherwise struggled to understand.

Click here to learn more about Business Administration at SUNY Broome.

Click here to learn about international student admissions.

Click here to learn about tutoring services at the college.

Now an academically accomplished student who plans to graduate this semester, Carolina became a tutor herself as a way to contribute to the campus community. As a paying job, tutoring also helps her support herself – an added plus for an international student who isn’t eligible for the type of financial aid many American students receive.

A native of Carabobo state in northern Venezuela, Carolina isn’t in Upstate New York alone; she lives with her older brother, currently a student at Binghamton University. She plans to follow him to BU next semester and major in accounting, with a future career in big business.

“I want to go back to my country once it’s stable. I really miss my friends and my parents,” she said.

Carolina initially chose SUNY Broome for the same reason many local students do: Its low cost, high quality and transfer options to BU. As an international student, however, she also must navigate cultural differences, in addition to mastering a new language.

“This is a different culture, with different weather and new people,” she said.

The cold upstate climate can be a bit challenging for someone accustomed to a more tropical environment. Venezuela doesn’t have snow, said Carolina, who admitted she was very chilly during her first year.

Venezuelan students also prefer to work more in groups, whereas American students prefer to work independently, she noticed.

“The American people are really nice and helpful, and very respectful to women,” she said.

Sadly, she often feels unsafe on the streets in Venezuela, which is currently going through harsh economic times and social upheaval. The comparison between the two countries, as a result, can be particularly stark in the grocery store.

“When you go to the supermarket, they have no food over there. Here, there is plenty of food,” she said. “Americans throw a lot of food away. That’s very sad.”