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Adaptation to change at the University of New Mexico

Editor's Note: This story is part of a continuing series on the international student life in colleges and universities in the United States. Join us in the coming weeks as we bring you stories about international students and the American higher education system in general.

Leaving a childhood home and moving to a new, unfamiliar place can be hard for people to do.

No matter where I go, there are challenges that come with being a new place, like finding your way and making friends.

José Miguel Ayala Salas faced these challenges and more when he left his country of origin, Ecuador, for the United States.

The 20-year-old was born in Quito, the capital of the country. When he was in high school, his father decided to look for a doctorate at the University of New Mexico. That was in 2015.

 Students walk through the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "Src =" "/></div><p> <span
Students walk by the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The father of Ayala Salas asked his son if he would join him in New Mexico. He suggested that he would have many experiences that would change his life as an international student.

Ayala Salas says the decision was not easy, his mother would stay in Quito, and he had never been so far away from her in his life. Although she grew up speaking Spanish and English, she still did not feel that her English skills were very strong.

In the end, Ayala Salas agreed to go with her father to the United States, they both moved to the city of Albuquerque , New Mexico Ayala Salas began studying at Albuquerque High School.

ala Salas says that, from the beginning, the language barrier turned out to be a serious problem for him.

He says he had no difficulty speaking in English for presentations and other activities in his classes. But he found it very difficult to establish friendships with anyone who did not speak Spanish.

But Ayala Salas did not allow these difficulties to defeat him. He says he learned to believe in himself and never give up, an important lesson for anyone in a similar situation.

"You do not mind making mistakes, at some point you're going to improve, but first you have to fail, you just have to talk and you do not mind your accent about your vocabulary, just do it until you get better and better, until you point where he can really communicate with people "

The belief of Ayala Salas in himself took him beyond what he could have imagined, he says. He completed his high school education in Albuquerque. And because he had lived in New Mexico for more than a year at that point, the state considered him a legal resident .

In most American public colleges and universities, the cost of attendance is lower for residents of the state. New Mexico also offers financial aid for graduates from state high schools seeking higher education at a public or state university.

Ayala Salas says that with that kind of support in place, she was more than happy to follow her father's path. And in 2016, he also became a student at the University of New Mexico.

 Students walk through the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "Src =" "/></div><p> <span
Students walk by the campus of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The University of New Mexico, or UNM for short, is a public research university. 1889. Serves more than 26,000 students The school is in the middle of Albuquerque, which is surrounded by mountains and desert.

Ayala Salas says she was pleased that the school accepted her in her undergraduate science program But even though he had succeeded as a high school student in the United States, he still faced additional challenges as a college student.

This included learning how to be independent, he says.

"In Ecuador … when people graduate from the secondary school they go directly to the university in the same city … Then, when you go to college, you are expected to still live with your parents. They take care of you. invoices . They cook for you. Well, here at … at the UNM … it was quite different for me. I had to take care of myself, pay rent take care of the house. "

 The international student of the University of New Mexico, José Miguel Ayala Salas, cleans his kitchen with his girlfriend Araceli. "Src =" "/></div><p> <span
The international student of The University of New Mexico, José Miguel Ayala Salas, cleans his kitchen with his girlfriend Araceli.

It was not long before Ayala Salas found another source of support: her Ayala Salas and her girlfriend came quickly, she says, and finally they moved in. She had been living alone since she was the father teacher of Ayala Salas at the UNM. I was 16 years old, so I was able to teach her a lot about how to be an independent adult.

Personal relationships were also the ones that helped Anima Bista to enjoy life as an international student at the UNM. 26 years old is from Narayangarh, Nepal He completed his undergraduate studies in his country He was born in 2015. But he says he always knew that he wanted at least part of his education to be carried out abroad.

So Bista chose to complete the program of a master in civil engineering at the UNM. But she never felt so far from home; when he moved to Albuquerque, he found accommodation with four other Nepalese students.

Bista says that at first he felt he had to surround himself with familiar faces. That's because, somehow, everything I was experiencing was new and unknown. She says that she and her friends from Nepal had ideas on how to behave or what to wear, for example. Those ideas came from the way they grew up at home.

"Our people there, we are not as open-minded as the people here in the United States, and there are many cultural differences, like even today, when the girl goes out alone at night, back in my country they do not feel safe because is how our cultures have been, you know … But here it is so open, like, you can move freely, you can go for free "

Bista admits that she and her friends were not prepared for life in the United States. But she adds that going through the process together helped them all adjust and adapt .

 International student from the University of New Mexico Anima Bista speaks with one of his civil engineering professors. "Src =" "/></div><p> <span
International student of the University of New Mexico Anima Bista speaks with one of her civil engineering professors.

Bista was also able to make American friends, she says she has been taught to enjoy many activities outside of the school, such as hiking .

Bista chose to work in the Office of Global Education at UNM.The office acts as a resource for international students.Helps with all kinds of problems faced by the students. international students.

Ayala Salas now also works there, he and Bista agree that while trying to find solutions on their own is important, it never hurts to have other people there to help them find the way.

I'm Pete Musto. And I'm Dorothy Gundy.

Pete Musto reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor. We want to hear from you. How do you adapt to new situations and environments? What advice can you give to others who are making great changes in their lives? Write us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.




Words in this story

challenge ( s ) – n. a difficult task or problem

doctorate n. the highest degree granted by a university

accent n. a way of saying words that occurs between people in a particular region or country

resident n. someone who lives in a certain place

graduate ( s ) – n. a person who has obtained a degree or diploma from a school, college or university

student adj. which describes a title that a college or university gives to a student generally after four years of study

bill ( s ) – n. a document that says how much money you owe for something you have bought or used

rent n. money you pay in exchange for being able to use the property, especially to live in an apartment or house belonging to someone else

master's degree (degree) – n. a title that a college or university awards to a student generally after one or two years of additional study after completing a college degree

adjust v . change to work or do better in a new situation

adapt v. change your behavior to make it easier to live in a particular place or situation

hiking n. walking a long distance especially for pleasure or exercise

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