Abril Olivares Nolasco from Mexico is a sophomore majoring in communications at Santa Monica College in Southern California.
Why did you decide to study in the USA?
Since the beginning of my education back in Mexico City, I had been always drawn to the flexibility that the American system offers. I am amazed by how you have the freedom to take courses in a wide range of disciplines, even if you are not majoring in that particular field. I consider that being open to try classes across disciplines helps you find your passions, interests, and talents. Also, as students, we have the chance to either double major or minor, which is a great option because you can study in two different fields without sacrificing your love for sciences, arts, literature, or research. For example, when I transfer, I really want to major in both cognitive science and communications because I want to do research within the STEM field and still foster my passion for writing. In other words, I am doing the best of two worlds.
Why did you choose your university/college?
The first reason is because SMC [Santa Monica College] has a great transfer rate for a community college in the U.S. However, I chose it because of the large population of international students. I have fun at my home away from home. I have friends from all over parts of the world and cultures, and I am so happy that each day they teach me a new way to see the world. Also, SMC has amazing professors who teach at [other Los Angeles County] institutions such as UCLA, USC, CSU, and Loyola Marymount.
Have you taken any classes outside your major that you’ve enjoyed?
Yes, I have taken art history and am amazed of how much knowledge I got from this class. In art history, my professor took us to different trips throughout the course, such as the school art gallery and the Getty Villa in Malibu. Professor Mina encouraged critical thinking when analyzing both the art piece and the historic context. With this class, I learned that art is everywhere and how through art we can express political ideas, feelings, or use it as a cathartic medium. Currently, I am enrolled in two interesting classes — astronomy and biology. Even though both are not related to my major, my professors are experts in each of their fields. My astronomy professor has worked with NASA for almost 30 years, and my biology professor has done research for most of his life.
What is your favorite place on campus?
My favorite place on campus is the Organic Garden because I got the chance to admire the different crops, get involved in the gardening process, and even just relax and have lunch there. It is a shame that most of the students are not aware that this place exists.
Does your university/college organize any fun events you’ve attended or are looking forward to?
Yes, even with COVID most of the clubs at SMC were active with online weekly meetings. As many things are getting back to normal, this fall it is going to be full of on-ground activities, field trips, etc. As I work at the International Education Center and I am the current president of the International Student Forum (ISF), I will be involved in the organization of exciting activities for all the students. In both the department and the club, we are planning on organizing events like pumpkin carving or a costume contest for Halloween, pie decoration for Thanksgiving, and if we have the time, plan a Christmas banquet in which we can try food from all over the world. Not only will I be involved with activities at SMC, but I will be planning activities outside of school. I really want to take advantage of everything [Los Angeles] has to offer, and I plan to organize beach days, visit museums like LACMA or the Getty, go on hikings, and visit amusement parks, such as Universal Studios or Six Flags Magic Mountain.
What were some struggles you faced and how did you handle it?
The only struggle I have dealt with are the cultural differences, and fortunately I have learned great lessons. Cultures are different in many ways, and with some of my roommates I had some miscommunications on how to manage the household budget. However, I have challenged my own ideal and have been open to both learn from Chinese culture and allow them to learn from Mexican/Latino culture. Now I think that communication is key in any cross-cultural relationship as well as honesty.
What do you want to do after graduation?
If I am honest, I get super intimidated when people ask me what I want to do with my life; however, over the summer break, I reflected on the goals I want to achieve, and now I am doing the planning part of it. I consider that my biggest goal at the moment is becoming a writer at The New York Times, The New Yorker, or The Atlantic. However, I am aware that my dreams and pursuits can evolve or change along the way, so I am open to do research, work in the entertainment industry, or even get a Watson Fellowship and travel around the world for an entire year. Definitely, I would say that I like to keep my options open and try getting experiences in different work fields.
Have you traveled around the U.S.? What were some of your favorite places, or where would you like to visit?
I have been in the U.S. for only six months, so I haven’t been able to do much traveling and I have been busy with school. I had the opportunity to visit Yosemite National Park and it was an unforgettable trip. The scenery, waterfalls, hikes, and the camping experience were transformative in all of the ways. I would never forget when we lay on the grass to watch the sky full of stars. I think I have never seen something as impressive as this. If you are living in California, I encourage you to visit Yosemite. I want to keep traveling through the West Coast and visit San Francisco, Portland, and Washington!
What is one of your nicest memories from your time as a student?
My favorite memory was with the International Student Forum when we organized a tie-dye day and everyone had the opportunity to color their shirts with their own designs. What I loved about this day was that we had the chance to spend time as a community, and it was so fulfilling seeing the final result of a six-month project. I think ISF has worked an important role in my academic and social life because I had the chance to open up, meet amazing people, and gather the international and domestic community together in enjoyable activities. Finding a home away from home is hard, but through this type of activity I have found my place in SMC.
Describe your experience in three words:
Exciting, fulfilling, and multicultural!!!
What would you tell students who are considering studying in the USA?
If you have the opportunity to study in the U.S., do it — everything will be worth it! It is the best life investment you will do; you will grow up in every area of your life. Also, you will improve your English, social skills, and you will become independent. The U.S. has amazing opportunities for any field you are interested in — here you can learn from the experts in each area and even get to work with them through internships or research. I consider that studying in the U.S. has opened many doors to me, and a year ago I [could only] imagine the life I am living right now.
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