Campus + Student Life, Clubs + Activities, Learning Experiences, SPEED Teams, Undergraduate Programs

International Student POV: Shazoi Hall from Golden Spring, Jamaica

Hi, my name is Shazoi Hall and I am an international student from Jamaica studying Civil Engineering here at Clarkson University as an Ignite Presidential Fellow. During my time here, I’ve had the opportunity to get involved in quite a few things that have made my experience valuable and have helped me with my self-development and my professional growth. 

Coming to college in a new country… during COVID.

My college journey began in the Fall of 2020, when we were still in the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, and this affected campus life significantly. For me, coming to campus as an international student was so daunting and exciting at the same time. I traveled alone from Jamaica to Potsdam. Not having my family to help me move in was rough to say the least, especially during Covid, but I was also seeing a new country and discovering a campus I had only seen through my phone and laptop screens. 

I was not able to interact or participate much during my first semester, so I did way more planning for when things became ‘normal’ again. I remember writing down my goals on a post-it note – all the organizations I wanted to join, the SPEED team, and how I wanted to get to do multiple internships. Coming from a third world country where opportunities aren’t as abundant as they are here in the U.S., I was really motivated to take advantage of everything available to me at Clarkson.

How I gained engineering design skills during my freshman year

During the Spring of 2021 leading into my second year of college, things started to become normalized again, there were no more masks, there were more events, and clubs and organizations were meeting again. By this time, I had already applied to become a Resident Advisor and was selected for the position. I was also meeting with the Rugby team as we were able to train a bit during Spring 2021. That season, our rugby team sought out help from Dr. Backus who is a part of the University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and is the Director of the Construction Engineering Department, to help us design and construct our very own rugby field. Dr. Backus presented us with the opportunity to have the team help with pre-construction costs and civil designs, and this was my very first opportunity to delve into some real-world experience, so I grabbed it eagerly. Though I was a freshman international student and knew almost nothing about the actual engineering design, I learned and was able to use some of the AutoCAD skills that I learned at my high school in Jamaica to help with the drafting. 

Re(creating) a club for International Students 

During my second year at Clarkson, I was more involved on campus, I worked at the International Center and Career Center as well, at Dorf Makerspace as a Maker Mentor, because I had such close ties with the International Center, a group of close friends and I worked together to reinstated the International Student Organization (ISO). This club was dismantled for almost 10 years, when we got this club running again, we hosted events on campus to help bring our international student population together, one of my most memorable moments with the ISO was our grand opening event, where we ordered famous snacks from various cultures and countries and had a get to know each other event, we had a lot of students stop by and everyone was just talking and having a good time.

Finding my tribe playing team sports

Since my second year of college through the remaining of my college years, Rugby has been one of my pride and joy, The Rugby team here at Clarkson is truly a brotherhood, and you meet amazing friends along the way, every semester we have exchange students from around the world, and most often than not they have been interested in participating on our team, and we welcome them with open arms and give them best experience. The pride I take knowing I am now playing on a field that I helped design is truly amazing, and all of our glory days will never be forgotten, I remember Fall 21 – Spring 22, we were basically called the ‘Kings of the North’ seeing that we were the only student-led team (without a coach) but still dominating every opposition, truly memorable. 

Participating and competing on a SPEED Team

During My third year of college, I was able to join the Clarkson University Construction Management SPEED team, I was still a rookie, being the only Junior on a team full of Seniors with way more experience than myself, it was a bit humbling, to realize I knew “nothing” but I knew I was recruited because I had to the potential to still be an asset to the team. I settled in really well, under great leadership and good coaches, shout out to Dr. Erik Backus and Professor Randy VanBroklin. In Fall 2022, during my first time participating in the ASC Region 1 competition for the Pre-Construction category, we were placed first and our cohorts who were competing in Heavy Civil also placed first. This was a huge double win for Clarkson and I felt super elated to be a part of the history being made. 

So, fast forward to my senior year in Fall 2024, I was selected to be the Project Manager and to lead the team in this year’s ASC Region 1 competition, though we were hoping to retain our championship, we felt short a bit but were still champions, placing second out of very competitive group schools, I wasn’t too too happy, but I was proud of my team for the way we handled all the complex problems we faced within a time-limited environment. In both years, I was also able to travel to Sparks, Nevada during my spring semesters to compete in the National ASC competitions, where competed against nationally ranked schools and had tons of fun along the way (I learned to ski on the Palisades mountain in California, that’s the type of fun I am talking about.)  In all, the SPEED team was so crucial to my industry development, that I learned so many real-world construction skills – both technical and soft skills – that prepared me  to better enter the workforce when I graduate. 

Looking forward to the future

Now, in my final semester of college, I sometimes look back and can’t believe how far I‘ve come in four years. Just starting, I was so young and full of dreams, now I am still young (HaHa), and more mature, of course… but I am living some of those dreams, and I have achieved most of those goals I had set in my freshman year. 

So, what’s next for me? Well, on May 11, 2024 I cross the finish line – I graduate! My four years of hard work will be recognized, and my parents will be on campus for the first time to see me get my diploma. After that, I will be joining an Engineering consulting firm called TRC Companies, where I have interned with them for the past two summers, as a Jr. Construction Manager. I am excited to begin my career journey. I will say, though: there is a chance that I will be returning to Clarkson as a graduate student… 

We will see what the future holds for me, either way, I have options I’m happy with. And if I do end up back at Clarkson, I hope to meet you, whoever is reading this and makes the decision to become a Golden Knight, too. Clarkson University has been a truly pivotal factor in my life, and I am now about to be a proud Caribbean engineer graduate.

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