"Coming from a different country, a different language, with no friends and being the only Mexican in an undergraduate program at UNH, you have to remain positive."

Maria's post-secondary education did not start here at UNH. Maria "Fer" came to New York from Mexico to go to the Culinary Institute of American (CIA). She had always wanted to become a chef, which was very uncommon for her family; her father being a politician, her mother a lawyer, and her sister an economist. In Mexico, Maria had gone to culinary school and received a certificate. She atended CIA to pursue her Associate's Degree in Culinary Arts.

Maria's boyfriend had graduated from CIA and started a degree program at UNH. During her final semester at CIA, Maria decided that she really wanted her Bachelor's Degree in Hospitality Management in order to take the next step toward her dream job of working at the Ritz-Carlton or The Four Seasons as a Food & Beverage Coordinator or a Special Events Coordinator.

Maria asked to live in Sawyer Hall becasue she had heard great things about the residence hall from her boyfriend and her boyfriend's aunt. She is extremely grateful that she took their advice. Maria loves her roommate and even though she did not choose her roommate, they have never had a single argument.

"Fer" chose to focus on her academics during her first year at UNH. "The CIA had been all about cooking. It was an amazing experience with a lot of intensive reading. So, when I came to UNH, I was prepared for the same type of reading and workload, if not more." The one activity that Maria chose to keep as a part of her life during her first year was her religion. She found a home at St. Thomas More. "The priest is amazing. He is extremely appropriate for UNH. God doesn't need me, I need him. I try to attend mass because it is good for me."

It was at church that Maria met her current boyfriend, "We met at church while we were attending CIA. I saw him every Sunday for six months at church. We have been seeing each other now for two and a half years. If you would have told me several years ago that I would marry an American, I would have laughed. You never know what is going to happen. All of a sudden a million different opportunities will appear, but you don't know what could happen. Don't limit yourself."

Maria has explored her possibilities with the help of her residence hall director, Alina Torres. "Alina is so into fighting for a cause and makes a statement even in the way she lives." Maria's English 401 teacher, Kimberly Cloutier-Green, has also had a huge impact on her. "I had thought that since I had lived here in the U.S. for two years prior to coming to UNH, it would be okay for me to take regular English 401 instead of the International Student English class. Professor Cloutier-Green worked with me individually to help improve my English writing, and my writing is better than ever. Kimberly is such an inspiration."

Maria's determination and positive attitude translate to every part of her life. "I have always disliked Math. I failed it in high school and hated it. When I got to UNH, I found out I had to take Math after having been out of it for more than six years. I decided I was not going to fail and shortly found out that it had all been a mental block in high school. I practiced every day. I went to the Math Center and came to know all of the tutors and ended up acing the class. It was a real surprise. I started to ask myself, what other things had I stopped myself from doing because I was afraid? I told myself, I can do anything I want."

Next year, Maria will balance her academics with a part-time job as a Resident Assistant, helping individuals to cope with everyday life. Maria blends right in to her mostly freshman residence hall, despite the fact that she is 25 years old. The residents look up to her because of her positive attitude, "Coming from a different country, a different language, with no friends, and being the only Mexican in an undergraduate program at UNH, you have to remain positive. Am I going to cry? Get homesick? No. I feel very blessed to be here. A good attitude can change everything." And for Maria, it has.

2013-2014 Honorees
2013 - 2014 CYOS Honorees: seated Zak Ahmad-Kahloon, Emily Dickman, Nyomi Guzman, Annie Crossman, standing Lauren McCandless, Kathryn Sattora, Timothy Marquis, Sid Nigam, Evan Beals, Peter Wilkinson
“Students are the focus of everything we do.”

Dept of Residential Life
13A Hitchcock Hall, 5 Quad Way-UNH
Durham, NH 03824
last updated 04/28/2014
Need More Information?
Ruth Abelmann, Associate Director
Department of Residential Life
University of New Hampshire
Phone (603) 862-2268