Swapsy Scholarship Program - Life as an International Student

Oliver Lopez · March 22, 2019

About the author: Oliver is originally from Nicaragua. He is originally from Nicaragua, and currently studying business in Florida. 

I spent the previous 19 years living with my mother in a 750 square feet apartment in Barrio San Antonio, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Managua, Nicaragua. Our economic possibilities did not allow us to move to a bigger or safer place, nor to pay for my undergraduate education in another country. A socio-political crisis started in April 2018 and students were being targeted as the ones who created conflict (because they started protesting peacefully), therefore police had clear instructions to either put them in prison or kill them. Since I was a full-time student, my uncle (who lives in the United States) was concerned about me and offered me the possibility to sponsor my studies, and that is how I moved to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Living 3026 miles away from my hometown has been a life changing experience for me in a lot of aspects.

For me, being an international student is like being a chancellor due to the fact that I represent my culture and at first, everyone seems to be interested in knowing where I am from and how Nicaraguan culture is, because they have the idea that it is a country from the stone age. No, I am not kidding. One of my classmates seriously thought that there was not an educational system in Nicaragua. Another guy from the soccer team thought that Nicaraguan people only ate fruits and vegetables, assuming we did not have meats and other types of food. I actually told him food was ten times tastier in my country, I do not know if it is because I miss it, or I have not gotten used to the food from the United Sates, but that is how I actually feel about food.

Food is just one of the list of things that I miss from my hometown. Being away from my mother has been the most difficult thing for me, especially with the ongoing situation in my country, because I am really concerned about her safety. Although, thanks to technology, I can communicate with her easily and I talk to her on the phone at least once a day. Being away from her has really changed me and has helped me become a more mature person. I now cherish all the things she did for me when we lived together, this includes cooking, taking care of me when I was sick, sometimes doing laundry, among others. Now I know that if I am hungry, there is nobody who is going to cook for me, same thing with laundry. This has helped me become a more independent person.

(picture from pexels)

Education is a lot different in America than how it is in Nicaragua. The main difference is that the perception of education itself is very different. In United States, people look at education as the pathway to progress and they know that you will be rewarded based on your degrees, that is why education is taken very seriously here. On the other hand, most of Nicaraguan people do not give the same importance to this topic and prefer to have fun, party, or do something else instead of dedicating enough time to prepare for a test. I believe this is given the fact that no matter how many degrees you have, the only way to get promoted is trough networks. I was not included in that group of people, I have always liked to study because I enjoy learning new things and expanding my knowledge, thus I really enjoy studying here because I am expanding my way of looking at things and I am also learning different things from my professors and classmates.

Another difference from both countries is that in Nicaragua, labor is not expensive, so if there was a house project such as painting or some minor electrical problem, most people will always have a contractor perform it. I am not a millionaire, but since my mom does not know much about electricity nor painting, she will always pay the neighbor for helping us out and I really did not care to learn. On the other hand, in the United States labor is very expensive, and that is why most of the people will take their time to perform changes in their homes. I have changed my mind in this aspect too, I really believe that it is good to learn anything because I never know when it can be useful. Thus, every time my uncle is working on the house, I offer myself to help him because I can learn something new that I am sure will be useful at one point of my life.


(picture from pexels)

My life summarizes in constantly checking the phone for messages from my mom or updates in Nicaragua’s situation, also trying to find taste in food or trying to find the right ingredients to make it taste as similar as possible and also learning as much as I can from everyone that surrounds me, it can be my professor, my uncle or even the lady that drives the bus because she is really punctual and professional. Although it is hard being away from home, especially in the circumstances I left, I feel that I have grown and matured a lot since I moved here to Ponte Vedra Beach.

(picture of author on campus, provided by author)
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