SHARE
Central Hall | Carmel Kookogey

It has already been a month of classes at Hillsdale College. For some of the stu­dents, it was either the beginning of their college life or their second year. For the oldest, it was the beginning of their last year at this amazing school. I wish that I could say I fit into any of these cat­e­gories, but for me, it was the beginning of a journey that started when I received my accep­tance letter in Bogotá, Colombia on May 11. I had never visited Hillsdale before. All knew about it was what I found on the college website, and ever since that day I thought about what it would really be like to be here.

After a long visa process and waiting for the day of my departure, I arrived at this beau­tiful campus in cold-weathered Michigan. I first went to Simpson Dor­mitory and met most of the people who would later become my closest friends and peers at school. As I walked to my room I saw an old Home­coming poster that said, “It’s the people.” I had no idea what it meant, but it would not be long before I figured it out.

As an inter­na­tional student there are many things that I per­ceived dif­fer­ently: the lan­guage, the food and some cul­tural aspects.

Replacing the big, capital city of Colombia for this small and cozy campus in the coun­tryside of the United States was a tough decision but I knew that things that are worthy are also uneasy. Many times, it is dif­ficult for stu­dents to leave their homes and live away from their fam­ilies, friends and the people they really care about. Stu­dents who have their fam­ilies in Ohio, Illinois or even Northern Michigan feel that way. Now think about the stu­dents who have their fam­ilies in Europe, Africa or, like me, South America. It can be dif­ficult at times if you focus on the dis­tance, but Hillsdale does not let you think about it for too long.

The people here are kind, polite, and always willing to help you if you need a hand. I would be lying if I said that I have not felt a little bit of home­sickness, but people here even­tually become your “college family” and make you feel as if you were home. I could not be happier with my friends, my dorm, my RAs, and all the people who have showed me that you should not fear coming here and leaving your family for some time, because you will be the new member of a very big family. I believe I can speak for all the inter­na­tional stu­dents when I say that Hillsdale is nothing but a mar­velous and wel­coming com­munity of the very greatest stu­dents from all over the United States.

Hillsdale, beside being an excellent school for aca­demic devel­opment, also focuses on the for­mation of cit­izens and leaders that get a broad edu­cation with the core cur­riculum classes, some­thing that I had not seen as well developed as it is here. But it is not just classes and reading. It is things like getting to your room after a long day of lec­tures and meeting friends in the hall. It’s walking to class and seeing how everyone kindly says “Hi,” and waves at you. It is the people that make this college a com­pletely dif­ferent and unique place, a place I am happy to be.

All in all, chal­lenges are always present in our lives, and it is how we face them that defines us. “Virtus ten­t­amine gaudet” should also be the inter­na­tional stu­dents’ motto, for it takes courage to be here by yourself. But, even if you think of it as a chal­lenge, everyone here will be making sure that you never feel like it is one. After this first month, I can say that this has been an amazing, happy, and enriching expe­rience. I am looking forward to seeing what will come next, for this is just the beginning of the story.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Great per­spective, Mr. Vargas. And you have con­tributed to the Hillsdale Com­munity as an inter­na­tional student, exposing other Hillsdale College stu­dents to your unique culture. When I was in college the first time I had room­mates from Japan, Iran and Malaysia and I learned a lot about the world outside the United States from them. Made some lifelong friends as well. Glad to have you part of Hillsdale College!