Freshman Ana Paula Montes De Oca is just one of the international students calling Olivet College home this fall. She hails from Mexico City, Mexico, the country’s largest city. In order to make the leap to Olivet College, Ana is tackling a new language and way of life, not to mention majoring in chemistry and joining the swimming and diving team.
Since she was 7-years-old, Ana has loved to be in the water, making her family question if she actually had hidden gills and fins somewhere. Her love grew into her number one passion in life: competitive swimming. Gaining national attention from her high school career in the pool, the OC swimming and diving coaches recognized Ana’s talent and invited her to check out Olivet.
“Swimming had been part of my life since my childhood, and all of my most beautiful memories are from when I was in the water,” Ana explained “I always knew swimming was something I wanted to carry into college, and when Olivet offered me the opportunity to continue competing, I was excited for the new experiences.”
Ana moved onto campus without having the chance to even visit first. She described her first day as a fun blur, making friends and building excitement for the upcoming school year. When it was over, Ana faced her first leg of homesickness, feeling secluded thousands of miles from her family, friends and home.
“I was shocked by how small Olivet was at first,” Ana said, coming from a city that is home to nearly 10 million people. “I felt like, what am I doing? I missed home and wanted to go back, but I met incredible person after person who wanted to help me – especially my roommate and professors. Now, I feel in love with Olivet.”
Ana didn’t hesitate to go after her career dreams by declaring a major in chemistry right away. She enjoys the hands on work of all sciences, paired with the challenges to understand why and how things happen the way they do. While some students might groan at the sight of a complex math equation, Ana is thriving in her calculus class, grateful that it’s the same in every language.
“The language barrier will always be the biggest challenge for me. My grammar in Spanish isn’t very good, so my grammar in English is even worse,” Ana joked. “My professors are always happy to work one-on-one with me to make sure I understand what they’re teaching in a way personalized to me.”
If attending college far from home wasn’t difficult enough for Ana, she faced an even bigger challenge when a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico on Sept. 19. Just over a week prior, an 8.1 magnitude quake landed off the southern Pacific coast of Mexico and four days later, a 6.1 magnitude quake hit 275 miles southeast of Mexico City, raising the death toll into the hundreds. Thankfully, Ana’s friends and family are all safe in wake of the devastating natural disasters, but much of her hometown’s infrastructure crumbled, including the high school Ana attended and her father’s workplace.
“Not being able to be with my friends and family was scary and frustrating.” Ana admitted. “Seeing what has happened is so sad, but I am proud to see how my people have shown solidarity and are working together. I am so proud of my friends, family and heritage.” Ana is extremely grateful her loved ones are safe and doing all they can to contribute to repairing the damages done by the earthquakes.
The strong support system Ana has built in just a few short weeks at OC has helped her cope with the difficult situation. In addition to her swim teammates, Ana found consolation as a member of the Xicano Club, a group raising awareness about and supporting Hispanic culture. Further, she is exploring OC’s chapter of the American Chemical Society, an academic group that actively strives to promote chemistry and expand the community’s knowledge about the subject.
Ana is looking forward to experiencing Michigan’s four seasons, getting more involved in student life, and especially, the upcoming swimming and diving season. Watch for her during the butterfly and freestyle races!
“I love my life right now because this experience is so special to me,” Ana exclaimed. “I feel like I’m in the right place and would encourage other international students to experience leaving their country. It is never easy, but it is worth it to grow.”
Learn more about becoming a Comet by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org. See campus for yourself at an upcoming Comet Day, or meet OC at a Buffalo Wild Wings near you for fun, food and great conversation about your future.