Meet Romina, a Fulbright Scholar from Rosario, Argentina who is spending a year at St. Thomas. Romina arrived in September and is almost finished with her year in the U.S. The purpose of the Fulbright Scholar program is to send people abroad to gain a first-hand experience of life in another country and promote understanding among different cultures. This year, Romina was one of 450 Fulbright Scholars from all over the world who came to the U.S. to teach. As part of the Fulbright program, Romina works as a Spanish tutor and teaching assistant, but also acts as a cultural ambassador for Argentina.
Romina has always had a dream of living abroad because “it opens your mind in every possible sense.” She looked forward to getting to know people with completely different ways of living and values. Being away from home and learning to live in a new environment has been a huge but rewarding challenge.
“I must say that I never experienced a culture shock.” Romina said she was surprised to see that many of the things she has seen in movies happen in real life.
There are some cultural differences here, because in Argentina, students do not move away to go to university. Here on campus, academics and extra-curricular activities become central to life. This was challenging at first, but Romina said she now appreciates having everything she needs within reach.
The University offers many resources and activities, which is different from university life in Argentina.
“They are all the time organizing stuff for students, that’s amazing for me,” she said.
To combat homesickness, Romina recommends keeping in touch with friends and family at home through social media. She even got to be at a friend’s wedding through video chat! Other advice she has includes utilizing the library at St. Thomas because there are so many books and you can borrow as many as you’d like, and to start conversations with strangers.
“Those unexpected conversations are the richest ones,” says Romina. “Don’t let [English language skills] be a barrier to communicate.”
Some of the things Romina will miss most are the friends she’s met here, being exposed to English daily, and the sense of order in the U.S.
“Punctuality, I am going to miss a lot… As a word, it exists. But it does not exist as a concept in people’s minds [in Argentina].”
Although she will miss the St. Thomas community, she looks forward to spending time with friends and family in Argentina.
Fun facts about Romina: She loves traveling and tries to make the most of her experiences by backpacking or using the Couchsurfing website to meet and stay with locals. Through her travels she has learned that there are more good people in the world than bad.
She says, “Fear prevents you from doing so much” so she forces herself to get out and do things even if she has to do them alone.
At St. Thomas, she goes to every speaker no matter the topic and even went on a skiing excursion on her own!