Alumni Success Story

First Generation U.S. College Student Presents at International Conference

LaGuardia Community College's Global Scholars Achieving Career Success

Camila, a student at Guttman Community College in New York City, is the first in her family to pursue a college degree, and virtual exchange has only added to her academic success. After a successful semester collaborating with peers in Morocco as part of her college course, she shared about her virtual exchange experience with an international audience at a conference focused on digital learning.

Camila has had to be adaptable and resilient throughout her adult life. She immigrated to the U.S. from Honduras with her family when she was 16. She started college remotely at Guttman Community College during the pandemic, becoming the first person in her family to go to college. Not only has she taken the huge leap of attending college, but she has excelled academically, earning entry into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society. She went on to participate in a virtual exchange program, Global Scholars Achieving Career Success (GSACS), connecting with students halfway across the world in Morocco for the first time through her Ethnography of Work class.

By collaborating on a project about gender inequality in the workplace, Camila forged close connections with the Moroccan students. One peer, Fatima, even invited Camila to come visit Morocco. Camila was touched by the invitation. “I loved the opportunity [to] meet the Moroccan students…you know how here in the U.S. you have the opportunity to talk to people from different backgrounds, but being able to talk to someone from somewhere you didn’t know about…that opened my mind,” she said.

“I loved the opportunity [to] meet the Moroccan students... being able to talk to someone from somewhere [I] didn’t know about opened my mind.”

Reflecting on the similarities between both countries,  Camila learned a lot not only about Morocco, but the U.S. as well.  She was surprised to learn that many of the Moroccan students spoke four to five languages, and revelations about gender inequality in Morocco made her realize just how similar struggles exist in the U.S. as well. After Camila’s positive engagement with her peers in Morocco through her exchange, she was invited to speak at a conference hosted by her partner school, Abdelmalek Essaâdi University. The conference, E-Learning and the University of Tomorrow, provided a platform for Camila to flex her skills as a scholar and share the benefits of virtual exchange with an international audience. She talked about the digital tools she gained from Moroccan peers and the collaboration and negotiation skills that blossomed during the exchange. 

“GSACS is impacting my career goals constantly, as I know that I want to work with people from different backgrounds and help people in different ways.”

Camila’s experience in GSACS has also helped her advance her academic and professional career. She wrote about GSACS in her application to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program. Her application included an explanation of how GSACS inspired a new interest in international business, a change from her previous major in human services. Including GSACS in her application helped her reach the semifinal round of the scholarship competition. 

“No matter my profession or career, I will always need to know more about other cultures,” she said. Wherever life takes Camila, she will show up with resilience, adaptability, and a desire to do good on a global scale. About her future trajectory, she says, “GSACS is impacting my career goals constantly, as I know that I want to work with people from different backgrounds and help people in different ways.” It’s clear that Camila will continue to apply the skills she gained from her virtual exchange experience to make strides towards her goals. 

Global Scholars Achieving Career Success is implemented by LaGuardia Community College and is supported by the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative (JCSVEI). JCSVEI is a U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program administered by the Aspen Institute.

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