Global Perspective

Why She Stayed at USF

A transfer student finds her place and her USF community

by Juliana Maldonado ’24

Quite frankly, I hated USF at first.

After two years and an amazing experience at Orange Coast College, my local community college, the transition to USF’s campus was difficult. My first semester at USF made me feel like a freshman. I did not know anyone and because I was a junior, the people in my year were either off campus or weren’t as open to meeting new people because they already had their friends established.

For those who know me, I am not an introvert and love engaging in conversation so I typically have no issue meeting new people. However, when attending involvement fairs and on-campus events I felt like a fly on the wall. I felt so isolated and alone that I began filling out applications to transfer to schools back home in Southern California.

Then my best friend from home gave me the best advice: say yes to everything. She suggested I sign up for anything that seemed even a little bit interesting because at that point I had nothing to lose.

If anyone knows the Lone Mountain East elevators, those things take forever. With the advice of my best friend and too many long trips in the elevators, I kept seeing a poster that had been promoting an opportunity similar to studying abroad. Because I transferred in with my core requirements finished, there was not an opportunity for me to study abroad. Having felt I missed out on a “typical” college experience, I scanned the QR code on the poster and filled out the application for Arrupe Immersions.

Filling out that application was the best thing I could have ever done because Arrupe Immersions are the reason I stayed at USF. After being selected to attend the Peru Immersion centered around street children in Lima, I was very nervous for the first meeting. I did not know what to expect or know if I would even like it. But after the meeting, I felt so happy and excited because I knew I found my community on campus.

The meetings that followed helped me feel more connected to campus and to those in my group. I would go to the student Mass and see people from the immersion team or I would walk around campus and see people who would be on the immersion with me. Being able to say hi to others I knew and having a purpose on campus helped me feel like I made the right choice by coming to USF.

My immersion in Peru is an experience that I hold very close to my heart. The organization that led our immersion, Casa Generación, defends the dignity, freedom, and human rights of children and teens living on the streets of Lima, Peru. During the immersion, we played and bonded with the children while we learned about their stories. We also spoke to mothers and adults, who were once children in Casa Generación, about the larger social and political situations that have put many families at risk. It was an emotional immersion and very hard to leave the children we bonded with. In such a short time, we gained so much knowledge and received immense amounts of love that this experience is something I could talk about for hours.

I felt such a draw and passion to the immersion program that, this spring, I am leading a student group to the Dominican Republic, and we are focused on Haitian migration.

I believe the Arrupe Immersions program needs to be shared because there is so much to gain. There are so many things going on in the world and often Central and South America are ignored when they face crises. Arrupe Immersions enable students to immerse themselves in a culture while opening their eyes to ongoing issues. I often tell those who are interested that if they want to be tourists in another country, study abroad. But if you want to learn and dive into the true culture and struggles of a region, go on an immersion.