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Students: GSU experience largely influenced by high school
International students say they were well-prepared, while Georgia students report mixed results
Nan LoBue, a lecturer in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University, presides over a small work group from her composition II freshman level class as Taylor Greene, 19, of Covington, far left, gives feedback to fellow student Lauren Weigand, 18, right of McDonough. Weigand admitted that peer critiques were not a part of her high school experience and LoBue affirms that many college freshmen are developing that kind of critical thinking and analytical skills for the first time. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Editor's note
One of the most difficult transitions in a person’s academic life is from high school to college. The Statesboro Herald recently spent time with a high school guidance counselor, a graduating high school senior and some instructors and underclassmen at Georgia Southern University to see how local schools on both sides of the equation help students make the adjustment.

Third of three parts.

Francisca Norregaard from Copenhagen, Denmark, is breezing through her freshman year at Georgia Southern University.
    Her reasons for excelling range from her desire to succeed in a foreign country to proper preparation by her high school system in Denmark.
    Francisca also excels in tennis, coming to Georgia Southern on a scholarship to play for the tennis team. Her work ethic has her practicing tennis three hours each day on top of her heavy class schedule.
    Even with such a vigorous schedule, Francisca feels bored at times.
    Francisca came from a school system that prepared her well for the rigors of college life. Her high school classes in Denmark were remarkably similar to the college classes at GSU, enabling her to do well in every subject. She attributes her abilities to the high level of expectation in the Denmark school system.
    “Students want to study, to succeed, to get ahead,” she said. “It’s a very competitive system that works for any who have the desire to grow.”
    Ri Strydom of Durbin, South Africa, also is enjoying considerable success in her freshman year at Georgia Southern.
    “My school and counselors were all geared to prepare us for the next level,” she said. “For me, however, the hardest thing in college is learning how to manage my study time. We did have College 411 back in South Africa, but it is different when you are now thousands of miles away from home.”
    Carlos Aguilar, of Honduras, attributes his success at Georgia Southern to the international high school he attended in his home country.
    “The school was great and prepared us for college from the ninth grade, concentrating on college level course work (such as Advanced Placement) for every student,” he said. “Classes were small, approximately eight to 10 students in each, which allowed more one-on-one with teachers and counselors.”
    While the international students interviewed generally said they were well-prepared, the results were mixed for students from Georgia.
    For instance, it hasn’t been quite so easy for Yannic Francis, from Dunwoody, in the sprawling DeKalb County school system in metro Atlanta. Francis said he went through such a large high school environment that he found it extremely difficult to obtain the kind of help he needed for the transition to college.
    “It was difficult to get advice from my high school counselors, for they were always so busy with hundreds of students,” he said. “The school seemed to focus more on standardized testing and its results instead of helping individual students prepare for college. When I got here (GSU), I was lost, and it has been a difficult transition for me. I did not know what to expect.”
    Since coming to Georgia Southern, Francis said a study-skills class and some helpful professors have gone a long way toward helping him make the adjustment to higher education.
    It was an easier transition for Devyn Johnson, of Stockbridge. She gives Georgia’s 4-H Club praise for her ability to succeed at Georgia Southern. Johnson said 4-H, sponsored by the University of Georgia, instilled in her the desire to be the very best possible in whatever field of study she chose. She began 4-H early in elementary school and went to summer camps where college students helped counsel her.
    “These students helped prepare me for college,” she said. “In 4-H, we were involved in the (District Project Achievement) program where we had to prepare speeches and present them regularly to the group,” Johnson said. “Through service projects, summer camps, college campus visits, we became better-prepared for whatever we faced in the future. The club gave each of us support and always urged us to do the very best at whatever endeavor we pursued.
    “My parents were both college graduates and gave me constant support in everything,” she continued. “They instilled in me good study and work ethics, and I will always be thankful for that.”
    Christopher Brinson, a Statesboro High School graduate and freshman at Georgia Southern, credited his teachers, counselors and Junior ROTC with preparing him for college life.
    “My involvement continues today in ROTC, and I hope to be accepted eventually into West Point,” Brinson said. “The programs and teachers at SHS have given me the tools of success, the discipline to stay-the-course, and a clear focus on the future.”

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