The U.S. recently celebrated Immigrants Day. In continuing that spirit, Spalding is highlighting some of our students who identify as immigrants. We are so grateful to have these students as a part of our community, and we thank them for sharing some about their journey to Louisville and our university. First is Maria Romo-Barajas, a Business Administration (Human Resources) senior who was born in Mexico before moving to California when she was 7. Romo-Barajas began pursuing her undergraduate degree twenty-two years after graduating from high school. She is now two classes away from earning her Spalding degree.
What is your country of origin?
I was born in Mexico and at the age of 7 moved to California. I started 2nd grade in the U.S. and I can still remember my first day of school like it was yesterday. The fear I felt, not being able to communicate with others, will remain engraved in my memory forever.
If you feel comfortable doing so, share a little about your family and your experience of when and why you came to the United States? Were there any challenges you/your family faced?
Being the oldest of two sisters and growing up with a single Mom was very challenging. I always had more responsibility than what was fitting for my age, including the need to translate for my Mother at the age of 7. This forced me to quickly learn the language, but it also gave me the opportunity to become bi-lingual and fluent at a very young age. There were a lot of hardships we went through, but it makes me appreciate everything I have today, especially [now that I have] a family of my own. I quickly understood that being an immigrant meant you have to work twice as hard, to prove you are a good person, deserving of living in this great country which I love. It took me years to accept that to some, no matter how much I achieve, I will always be an immigrant. And, that is ok because I know the journey to my accomplishments and that is all that matters.
Why did you decide to come to Spalding?
Recommendations from colleagues and the flexibility [that the schedule] offered is what attracted me to Spalding. It has given me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of obtaining a degree at my pace while balancing my family, work and school life.
BS in Business Administration | Program Overview | School of Business
What has your experience been like as an immigrant student at Spalding, and are you happy/proud to now be a part of the Spalding community?
The diversity at Spalding made me feel that I fit in, from day one. I have met great people from different backgrounds and cultures, which is very enriching. I am proud to attend Spalding, an inclusive school that is driven by ethical standards and has strong values.
Are there ways people could be more supportive of immigrant students?
I think the best way for others to be more supportive of immigrant students, is to be more of an active listener. Sometimes, something as basic as listening will expand our knowledge of other cultures, which not only can be interesting but also can help us understand our classmates’ struggles. [It can] give us the opportunity to help, in our own way.
What do you hope to do with your degree from Spalding, and does your immigrant experience influence your goals for your academic career, your professional career or your life?
My goal is to become part of the upper management group of professionals in the business world. I have been in management for 26 years, but not the level in management I desire. My degree, combined with my experience, will empower me to achieve this goal. Something that could make achieving my goal even better, [would be to] incorporate my bilingual skills with the management position I aspire to. That would be amazing!