PLAINVIEW – Plainview, Texas, by way of Pratt Community College in Kansas, is a long way from Bogotá, Colombia. But in the two years Tatiana González and Kate Trejos have spent at Wayland Baptist University they have come to love the small town lifestyle and the friendliness of the people.
On Saturday, May 5, González and Trejos will be among the 118 Wayland students celebrating their graduation. Commencement will be held at 2 p.m. in Wayland’s Hutcherson Center.
When they arrived in the United States, neither Trejos nor González knew English. Taking classes and being immersed into the U.S. culture forced them to learn. They spent two years at Pratt Community College on a volleyball scholarship, learning the language (although they still speak with heavy accents,) learning the culture and taking basic college courses. Two years ago, they transferred to Wayland to play volleyball for the Pioneers under coach Jim Giacomazzi, and to work toward degrees in art.
Transferring from the largest city in Colombia to a small West Texas town was quite a change for the two, but Plainview soon became home.
“When I first got here, I was super bored because I didn’t know what to do,” González said. “But you get used to that. Now, for me, it is hard to live in a big city since I have been four years in a small town.”
González said the atmosphere is much more relaxed and people here don’t waste time waiting for public transportation and trying to get from one place to another.
Trejos, who had taken some college courses in Colombia before moving to the U.S., said the culture change was really shocking, especially since she and Tatiana are older than traditional college students in the States.
“It was shocking because young people have different thoughts on how they approach things,” she said. “College is different here than at home. Everyone just wants to be crazy when they are freshmen and sophomores.”
Trejos and González, who first met when they were 13 and playing on a volleyball team in Colombia, moved to the U.S. at the age of 22. Trejos said she and Tatiana had already passed that “crazy” stage of life and had trouble adapting to their classmates.
“Whenever I moved [to Wayland], I found more international people and it helps to feel more comfortable with the culture because we have a different point of view,” Trejos said. “We can talk about them, and argue to each other. We have some common thoughts about American culture and how we perceive it. It was neat to find those open views about how we understand a new culture and how we approach it.”
While the two Colombians were standouts on the volleyball courts, they have also been standouts in the classroom. Their artwork is currently on display in the Abraham Art Gallery through Tuesday, May 1, and they hope their talents translate into careers.
Yet while graduation is typically a time of joyous celebration among students who see it as a rite of passage, it comes with a great deal of stress for international students who are issued student visas. As traditional students count down the days until their final papers are due and tests are complete, Trejos and González are filling out paperwork and desperately looking for jobs. Upon graduation, Trejos will have 60 days to either find a job, or go home. González has one more class to take this summer so she will have a little more time, but she admits it is still a very stressful situation.
“I am actually scared because of the pain of finding an internship or we have to go back home,” González said. “It’s not that we don’t love home. We miss home and we want to be with our families, but we need to think of our future and our future can be so much better over here.”
Trejos said that even though education for women is culturally acceptable in Colombia, the pay scale is still minimal. She also said a person with a degree in art may end up working for a business as a graphic designer, marketing representative and industrial designer.
“With a degree you are doing the work of three different majors and you are not getting the pay for these three,” she said. “Whenever you get a resumé from here and say I have experience working in these companies, you go back home and that makes you stand out from another applicant.
Trejos and González both hope to eventually enter a graduate program for art, but they first feel they should find jobs to gain experience and save some money for graduate school. Trejos wants to work as a graphic designer. González hopes to find work as an animator and eventually work for Pixar.
“I am really interested in illustration or animation,” González said. “That’s what I want to apply for in graduate school after I do an internship.”
The two, who are as close as sisters, hope to stay together, but they understand that at this point they might have to separate. They have even laughed at the thought that one will find a job and the other will have to go home. For now, that possibility is just an afterthought. But in 60 days, it could become reality. Still, they are both happy that they chose this route for their education and that they were able to earn their degrees from Wayland.
“It has been a really nice experience to be here. I enjoy being here and I am going to miss it,” Trejos said. “[Moving here] was the best decision ever.”