Ayala, Ofelia, Parent of study abroad student

Name: Ayala, Ofelia
Title: Parent of study abroad student

When I was fifteen years old I wanted to pursue a career as a nurse. However, my dream was shattered when my parents told me I would have to drop-out of high school and work instead to maximize our family’s income. When my husband and I migrated from Mexico to the United States, I had a vision: I wanted to provide my son, Jesús, with a better future.

When Jesús first told me that he wanted to go to study in Spain I was hesitant. I knew that we couldn’t afford it, but Jesús insisted that he could probably get a scholarship. I then realized that I actually didn’t want him to get his hopes up too high because I didn’t want him to have to face disappointment if he wasn’t chosen. In Mexico, only the wealthy have the opportunity to travel abroad to Europe. The average Mexican never even leaves the country.

Jesús traveled around the world and visited more places in one year than many will probably get to see in a whole lifetime. All I ever wanted was for my son to finish high school. I clearly got more than I asked for, and I couldn’t be any prouder. In traveling abroad not only did he achieve what he set out for himself, he also broke down cultural barriers so that other Latinos can follow in his footsteps.

Presently, Latinos are the fastest growing community in California. Within a few years it will be vital that anyone who lives in this state be bi-lingual. In learning Spanish, Jesús has doubled his appeal to potential employers. His ability to translate quickly and efficiently will allow him to pursue his career goals as a TV producer. Latinos are very wary about who they share their experiences with. Most Latinos will not open-up to a journalist who does not speak Spanish. Fortunately, Jesús will not have that problem.

I always believed that reading, writing, and speaking Spanish fluently would allow my son to pursue unique opportunities. For this reason, I have always been strict about not allowing my children to Speak English in my home. Since Jesús has spoken Spanish at home all his life, when he left to Spain his Spanish skills were already exceptional. Studying abroad, though, gave him the extra push he needed to master the language. Our relatives in Mexico are amazed that he is able to express himself so eloquently and assertively.

Studying in a new environment has enriched my son’s academic studies. Knowledgeable professors exposed him to new views, while a diverse student body introduced him to different customs. Ultimately, he has been able to mature and become a more responsible and self-reliant individual. I think that he will always carry with him what he learned abroad. He has so many great memories and nobody will ever be able to take that away from him.

While he was abroad he improved his knowledge about global politics and he now shows a genuine interest in what is happening beyond our borders. Spain merely opened the door to European politics and culture. Having studied in Spain in wake of the European Union has improved his understanding of comparative politics and international business.

In light of the events of September 11th safety is a huge concern among parents. Now I worry about my children’s well being more than ever. But, the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center have taught us all that on September 11, 2001 any country in the world was safer than the United States. As Americans we are all learning to be more alert and prepared. Part of being prepared is continuing on with our lives and hoping for the best.

Should other students go abroad? The answer is very simple. Yes. Students who live in the United States have opportunities that students living in other countries simply don’t. Students should take advantage of the academic and financial resources that this country offers. Now that my son has traveled extensively, I am not as worried about his well being anymore. Deep inside I know that now the sky is his only limit.