By Laila Casino | Staff Writer
In 2022, Arkansas State University saw an increase in enrollment for first-time international students (up by 5%) and the enrollment/transfer of the Queretaro campus (up by 3%). Many of these students are international, first attendees or transfers and have helped improve the campus’ numbers and better diversifying the voices, cultures, races and ethnicities of the pack.
Heidy Bulbarela-Hernandez, a sophomore in graphic design and native to Stuttgart, Arkansas, speaks both English and Spanish. Bulbarela-Hernandez is of Latino descent, with Spanish being her first language and learning English when she began early education in Pre-K, as well as going through ESL lessons which lead her to become fluent in English later in her elementary school years.
Student life has been rewarding for her since coming to A-State, having joined Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha, Incorporada this past fall and Hermana y Hermano as a mentee during her first year and now, part of the Co-Social Chair and mentor. Within her student life she mostly speaks English, but Spanish when she returns back home.
“I feel closer to my culture when I am around my peers and feel understood. By speaking a different language, you create a bridge to that culture and form a bond with native speakers,” Bulbarela-Hernandez said.
When discussing career and academic opportunities as an individual who can fluently speak in two languages, Bulbarela-Hernandez said, “Being bilingual in graphic design is beneficial because I can better communicate and understand an audience with my work and am open to more job opportunities.”
Shiqi Zhong, a junior in graphic design, was born in Guangdong, China. When Zhong moved to the United States and transferred to A-State, she said it was scary and nerve wracking; everything was a new experience for her. She learned about A-State through a program back in her high school, propelling the move to America, and though it was exciting, it held future problems.
“After I came to America, I needed to figure out problems by myself. For example, I don’t know how to get a SIM card and where to get it. All the small problems have become big problems for me,” Zhong said.
Zhong’s first language is Cantonese and she later learned Mandarin. She learned English when she was 6 years old, but never had talked to foreigners in English before, so it made her wary of engaging with others at first. She speaks Mandarin to her Chinese friends, since back in her hometown in Guangdong, speaking Cantonese isn’t universal.
“For me, learning languages is also learning a country’s culture. I’d love to learn more languages if I can,” Zhong said.
Emiliano Ceballos is an international-transfer student from Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico. He spent his first couple of years in the Queretaro campus, majoring in strategic communication and minoring in marketing. He felt that the initial move for college was great yet different as he’d moved to another state away from his family, but with the friendly and inviting people and atmosphere there, the move was the first step in a successful new school year.
But Ceballos’ transfer process from Mexico to the U.S. wasn’t as scary as some would think. He said it the travels and packing were exhausting, but the initial move was familiar as he had been to the States many times for travels and for school, as he before college went to a boarding school in Texas.
The decision to transfer over from the Queretaro campus to Jonesboro was the desire to learn communication but not wanting to stay in his hometown, “There you learn, you grow and then you stay. But, I didn’t want to stay, I wanted a new challenge.”
Ceballos had seen an A-State advertisement promoting the U.S. campus that led him to researching on his own and readily preparing for the move to continue on his junior year.
Post-move in, with his first two weeks here at A-State, it’s been great. Ceballos praises the faculty, as professors are helpful with giving him the resources he needs. His initial reason for majoring in strategic communication came in handy as he likes to engage, interact and see new people and environments.
“I wasn’t as outgoing in high school, so in college I said: ‘Let’s try new things!’ Been improving myself, trying to make new friends and setting goals and challenges.” He still communicates to his friends back in Mexico, even interacting with the few who transferred last year to the Jonesboro campus as well.
Still with any move, especially one to a new country, there are still some challenges. The cultural shift and language barrier are a part of it.
Ceballos had been learning English in his home country, learning the grammatical accuracy and rules, but there are complications that arise with slang and personalized ways of speaking and accents in the way from fully learning the language. But as he attended boarding school here in the U.S., it got easier as he was actively speaking to others in English and being helped by/helping others.
“It’s good to know another language, especially for the people ( who come from different parts of the world) who come here. Not specifically Spanish, but other languages. America is a country of diversity, a lot of people come here for school, for jobs and people should learn another language to make the others feel more comfortable,” Ceballos said.
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