Any student in their rightful mind would cash out on the opportunity to go abroad and take a light semester to enjoy their experience in another country by partying, traveling and eating exotic food. Well, so did I.
But, I wanted to do a little more and challenge myself in another country.
My parents are one of my biggest inspirations, and if they can make an opportunity out of nothing than I could too.
Watching my parents struggle in supporting their four children in a place that made it hard to feel welcomed led me to question the fundamentals of society and life in general. I felt the world come down on me. The place I grew up to love wasn’t as glorifying and trustworthy as I thought, but I knew there was still hope. My parents immigrated to the United States from Mexico and have been trying to make a living ever since. Even though they never made it past grade school, they push learning and education on us to help us achieve a better life than they can ever dream of.
I hope the saying “the good things in life don’t come easy” is true because my undergrad years haven’t been a walk in the park. I’ve been jumping at every opportunity that has come my way to better myself, those around me and local communities. One of the many opportunities I have come across was the opportunity to study in Santiago, Chile. Little did I know that I was going to fight an uphill battle with barriers to jump over and hoops to go through.
A few of those barriers were dealing with my upper-division classes. The unpleasant thing about my majoring in International Business is that I have to take classes like the Fundamentals of Finance and International Business Finance. It’s possible, but not easy.
I thought my classes would be the hardest thing to deal with. The semester before going abroad, I had to handle my schoolwork and make sure I maintained my GPA. If it dropped by even .01, I wouldn’t be able to study abroad and would also need to change my major. Plus, I had to apply for my student VISA and pass the exam to get into my second major (Journalism) so I wouldn’t have to worry about it in my return.
In the meantime, I was involved in a few student organizations; two were in relation to my majors and another was a fraternity. I was promoted to Director of Internal Expansion and president for my fraternity the semester before, not to mention I was working a part-time job.
My first instinct was to drop one of the positions, but I understood that the fraternity was going into a downfall with most of our older members graduating. It was a lot to handle, but I made sure that they knew that I was going to have a busy semester and wouldn’t be able to handle it all by myself without their support.
Since I was going abroad, I decided to move back home for my Fall semester so I could save money to pay for my expenses and have extra spending money to travel overseas. After three years on my own, coming back to a traditional Mexican family was difficult. On top of struggling to make everything fit on my plate, I had responsibilities at home. I needed to help my parents around the house, handle their finances and translate documents from English to Spanish whenever they couldn’t understand.
With proper planning and preparation, I survived the semester. My grandfather passing away made it more difficult, but I made sure to push through all the adversity. It required late nights where I would ride home around 3 a.m. in the rain and cold. There were times where I couldn’t control my body from shivering so much that my steering would move out of control. For safety reasons, I’d slow down and find a safe place to pull over. I’d do jumping jacks to warm-up my body before continuing on my way.
Ultimately, I made it abroad. My hard work and sacrifices paid off, plus they gave me a far better reward than I could have ever dreamed of. It was the most amazing experience of my life. Having the opportunity to travel to a completely different country, live like a local student and go through similar experiences was thrilling and eye-opening.
After not being able to crash challenging courses like Economia Financiera and Comercio International, I took courses like Contemporary Latin American Marketing Strategies and Starting Up In Latin America. These courses gave me a wider picture of the world of business both globally and locally. I was challenged by going into the city to chat with locals to understand their daily lives better and see what daily challenges they face to create a business idea and go through the early stages of development.
One of my professors had connections and took exchange students into a business incubator to see how they worked. Another great experience was being able to watch a local rap battle hosted on campus for the semi-final round. Not to mention that the best food in Santiago was Peruvian food. Local food was good, but some plates were bland. Coming from a Mexican background, I love my herbs and spices, especially some good salsa. Surprisingly, there was no chile in Chile. I managed to survive off Tabasco sauce because that was the best they had.