The World Traveler
Arelí Hernández. First-Generation Student, Fulbright Scholar, Dancer.
Arelí Hernández is fearless. Her studies have taken her around the world: a three-week summer Fulbright program with social activists in London; study abroad in Ecuador where she helped a nonprofit integrate refugee and immigrant populations; an internship in Kadapa, India with the University’s Global Fellows program. But she wasn’t always so confident. The daughter of Mexican immigrants, Arelí used to feel out of place in the classroom because her experience was so different from her classmates. The ethnic studies program at SCU helped change that. Her professors served as mentors, teaching her to reclaim her space and position in society. She began to view the struggle of her ancestors through a different lens. Even though they didn’t have formal education, they were accomplished. Arelí has been pushed to do more and be more at SCU—from triple majoring to leading the Mexican folk dancing club on campus. Up next, Arelí is back on the road thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship in Tunja, Colombia where she hopes to empower others just like her.
Why I Chose SCU.
I was a part of Summer Search, a nonprofit organization that helps first-generation high school students get the necessary resources to apply for college. They suggested Santa Clara, which I hadn’t considered. For me, class size was a big thing. Santa Clara had an 11:1 student-faculty ratio. That’s wild because you’re able to really connect with the students in your classes, but also have support from faculty and staff. And when it came time for financial aid, Santa Clara helped me out. Without my financial aid package, my family couldn’t have afforded college for me and my three younger siblings who also plan to go to college.
What Makes SCU Unique.
The LEAD Scholars program for first-generation students has been the best community on campus for myself and for many others. It helped me network, conduct mock interviews, and look for internships. LEAD alumni come back and mentor us. Our program has the highest retention rate out of all of the groups on campus. Through a LEAD fellowship, I was able to pay for my life-changing study abroad experience in Ecuador. It was taught by Ecuadorian faculty but with American students from different universities. We discussed race, class, land rights, indigenous rights, all together with literature in a different context than what I had studied before. Outside of class, I interned with a nonprofit that does work with Venezuelan and Colombian women and children, lobbying the local government for different ordinances in regards to issues like domestic violence, abuse, and immigrant rights.
Opportunities That Stand Out.
At the urging of my professors in ethnic studies, I applied to and was accepted to a three-week Fulbright summer program at the University of London SOAS as a sophomore. I had never been to the UK before. A lot of my classmates were grad students—people who have done work in the field. So a lot of them came from different NGOs, grassroots organizations, and social movements globally. It was really magical to see people who were making a real impact and taking such different approaches.
Advice for Incoming Students.
SCU will nurture you. It will both hold you and test you. Your beliefs will be challenged. You will not look at the world in the same way. It’s a place where you can create friendships and communities for yourself and for people with similar interests or passions. It can be hard, but with those communities, they’ll be able to hold you when you just feel like falling. Look for places in which you can grow, fight for what is just, and open yourselves to change in the world, in your community, and within yourself.
Arelí Hernández, Ethnic Studies, Political Science and Spanish