Dominican student finds new dream at MSU Texas

A long way from home

Dominican student finds new dream at MSU Texas

Annisha Aaron’s first months at MSU Texas in 2017 were not easy. It was her first time to be so far from her Caribbean island home of Dominica. She grew up surrounded by a big family, and here she knew no one. She worried that she would be too “different” from others. Then, just after the semester began, Hurricane Maria hit her home and she could not reach her family, only adding to the anxiety.

Personnel in the Global Education Office, who were familiar with the culture shock of being away from home, and members of the Caribbean Student Organization helped Annisha not feel so alone. Three years later, she has persevered and will walk the virtual stage and receive her Bachelor of Arts degree.

Annisha began her college studies in Dominica with the intent of becoming a veterinarian but realized she enjoyed English and writing much more than biology. When she came to MSU Texas, she declared English as her major.

Her adviser, Associate Professor of English Sally Henschel, noticed that Annisha often shared her experiences with other students to encourage them to keep moving forward. So Henschel took that a step further and suggested she tutor other students. Being shy, Annisha wasn’t sure she could work with others but now realizes that tutoring helped her break out of her shell. Talking with and helping others with English only made her more assured in her decision to major in English.

Henschel didn’t doubt that Annisha could make the leap to tutoring. “That Annisha left her home in Dominica and moved to Wichita Falls for her education made me realize that she is very capable of moving out of her comfort zone,” Henschel said. “She faced and overcame several challenges in her first year at MSU as she learned to navigate an educational environment that was different in some ways from the college where she earned her associate degree.”

Tutoring at MSU Texas’ Writing Center and Student Support Services made Annisha’s desire to teach English to others stronger and refined that desire to teach English as a second language. She enjoyed helping others and seeing their improvement. “Annisha is a very dedicated student with great understanding and empathy for others: traits of a good tutor,” Henschel said.

Although Annisha understands why graduation is virtual and is OK with that, it is still disappointing that her family will have to rely on photos to see her in her regalia.

One who will not see Annisha in her graduation robe is her dad, Addison. He died Nov. 4. As she had not experienced the death of a close family member before and could not go home to be with her family, it was hard for her. “I fell behind on my assignments and I couldn't seem to focus on my school work like I needed to,” she said.

She took some days off from school and had to push herself to focus on the assignments that had piled up to complete the semester, mourning and studying at the same time. But her professors were understanding and granted her extensions, easing some of the stress. “It was a really sad time for me, however, I spoke to my teachers and they all gave me extensions, so I felt much better knowing I wouldn’t fail if I turned in my assignments later than usual. They were understanding, and that actually helped take off some of the stress of the moment. I had support not only from my friends but from my coworkers and supervisors, and they helped me emotionally get through the difficult times.”

Although not with her in person, Annisha knows her dad is with her. “I know he would have been proud of my accomplishments, so that comforts me, and knowing that my family back home is rooting for me as well makes it a little easier being away from them,” she said.

Not all of the firsts that Annisha experienced at MSU Texas were hard. She saw her first snowfall here, and she found a campus that was welcoming and open to differences. She also found a new dream – teaching English in China, although the pandemic has put that on hold. Her interest in other cultures, the Asian culture, in particular, led to her decision to teach in China. She can stay another year in the United States to work in her field, and after that, she hopes China is in her future, where she can conquer more firsts.