Baylor’s international reach brings students across seas

International students Ignacio Rodriguez, Andres Chinchilla and Catharina Park Dos Santos (left to right) talk about why they chose to come to Baylor. Grace Everett | Photographer

By Sophia Tejeda | Staff Writer

Students come to Baylor for a variety of reasons; whether they be academic, faith-based or for scholarships, Baylor’s spirit and reputation cross numerous borders, landscapes and, for some, even oceans.

Sao Paulo freshman Catharina Park Dos Santos dreamed of attending college in Texas because of stories told by her parents, who met in school in San Antonio; after her parents’ marriage and the birth of her older sister, her family moved back to Brazil, where Park Dos Santos grew up. Her older sister currently attends Rice University, allowing the two to be close together despite being far from home.

“When it came time for us to choose a college, it was ingrained in our heads to go to Texas,” Park Dos Santos said. “Baylor seemed like the better fit because it [is] a Christian community, and the student life seemed so amazing … Everyone seemed so happy to be here.”

While Park Dos Santos said she misses the food from home, she said Baylor’s community has allowed her to grow by obtaining a good education and having opportunities to grow in her faith, such as being baptized during FM72.

“I wanted to meet people who shared my faith and [a place] where I wouldn’t be ridiculed for my faith,” Park Dos Santos said. “[Baylor] had the atmosphere I was looking for. Being at a Christian campus and surrounded by so many people who share my faith has allowed my faith to grow. I can see God working in my life in more ways than I imagined coming here.”

Although Park Dos Santos said her first semester took some adjustment, she said her time at Baylor has taught her that everything happens for a reason. She said her advice for other international students is to call home from time to time to cure homesickness and to branch out, meet new people and establish connections.

“Look for people who share the same experiences, but don’t always stay with them,” Park Dos Santos said. “It is good to get out there, because you left home for a reason. There are so many things you can learn from other people and ways you can grow that you didn’t even know you could.”

Park Dos Santos said she plans to utilize her Baylor degree in interior design to obtain a job back home in Brazil.

Freshmen Andres Chinchilla and Ignacio Rodriguez traveled from their homes in Costa Rica in order to procure a Baylor education. Rodriguez, from Pozos de Santa Ana, said he fell in love with research by growing up around a lab in his grandmother’s house.

“My No. 1 reason to go to college is to work in a lab,” Rodriguez said. “I looked for [colleges] where I would get that opportunity, which wasn’t really available back home.”

Rodriguez said he learned about Baylor through network contacts prominent in the research field that he obtained through his aunt; one of his contacts recommended Baylor as a school that provided optimal research opportunities. Additionally, Rodriguez said he was interested in Baylor’s size and academic environment, which fostered learning without a sense of hostility.

Similarly, Chinchilla said that while the streamlined college application process enticed him to apply to schools in the U.S., the Science Research Fellows program at Baylor, which Rodriguez introduced him to, drew him to Baylor.

The Science Research Fellows accepts a maximum of 10 students each year to provide students dedicated to research with mentoring and the ability to work in the lab.

“It allows us to have more control over our classes so that we get to [focus] on what is [applicable] to our research,” Chinchilla said.

Additionally, Chinchilla said the Baylor community helps establish connections and relationships. He said he appreciates the access and availability of supplemental instructors (SIs), who help him fully comprehend and synthesize knowledge that his lab work can transform beyond conceptual and textbook information.

Despite these opportunities, the people, culture and familiarity of home are what Chinchilla said he misses most about Costa Rica. He said he remains open to all possibilities available to him in the future.

“I accept what life gives me and make the most out of the cards available to me,” Chinchilla said. “Two years ago, I didn’t know I would be here in the U.S. If I wasn’t open-minded, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity.”

Rodriguez said he misses the nature and climate of Costa Rica, but he is open to attending graduate school anywhere that provides him the opportunity to continue to grow in his research. Eventually, he said he hopes to return to Costa Rica. He said he advises international students to obtain an understanding of the culture and dynamics of whichever country they plan to study at.

“It is very important to understand how certain things work in the U.S. because there can be huge differences that you don’t expect, such as health care,” Rodriguez said. “You should inform yourself about the state system wherever you might be studying beforehand.”

Chinchilla also said he recommends branching out and being open to friendships beyond those with other international students.

“I have friends who don’t even know I am an international student,” Chinchilla said. “They are friends with me not because of my circumstances but because of who I am. I think this provides more genuine experiences and friendships, not those created just because [you] speak the same language.”

Overall, Baylor’s values and community attract students to pursue greater education no matter the distance from home.