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International Student Spotlight: A pursuit in becoming a ‘citizen of the world’

By Stephanie Morales, Contributing Writer

Josefina Ondo’s green braids and dark skin easily set her apart from the crowd at the University of New Hampshire. Yet, there is more color in her personality than anywhere else on her.

As an international student, Ondo is adjusting to life in New Hampshire day by day. She is meeting new people, taking freshman classes and experiencing what it is like to live in the United States for the first time. Her experience of going to college for the first time has held different sorts of challenges from the typical freshman student at UNH.

Ondo was born in Madrid, Spain, 18 years ago. Since then, she has lived in Equatorial-Guinea, Canada and now the United States. She has bounced around from country to country throughout the years, and has engrained a love for all cultures—something that has immensely influenced her character. 

Still, this is not her first time having to start over in a new country. Ondo moved from Spain to Equatorial-Guinea when she was a 1-year-old, then back to Spain when she was 8. At the age of 14, she moved to Canada for a year, but came back to Spain for the remainder of high school. 

“I’ve had to do this a few times, so I’m past the point of culture shock,” Ondo said. “It’s hard, but I’m not shocked anymore. I learn to adapt.”

Since her arrival at UNH on Jan. 13, Ondo has gotten involved on campus through multicultural organizations. She joined the Black Student Union, MOSAICO and regularly visits the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA). She has been welcomed with open arms into these organizations. 

While Ondo has managed to adjust to her life at school, she misses aspects of her life in Spain. She misses the customs, hearing her native language, the familiarity and above all, her family.

Since they are all spread out from Equatorial-Guinea to Spain, she only gets to see them during long breaks from school. What Ondo misses the most is her little brother, whom is already taller than she is.

There have been difficulties adjusting to the American culture since moving to New Hampshire, Ondo says. When going to see the movie “50 Shades of Grey,” Ondo was surprised that she needed an I.D. to watch an R-rated movie. In Spain, explicit movies are not seen as offensive as in the U.S., according to Ondo.

“It’s little things like that that throw me off,” Ondo said. “It reminds me that I’m foreign when I don’t know what to do or where to go for something.”

Ondo is stricken with homesickness at random times more often than she likes to admit. It is moments where students are leaving for spring break when she must stay behind that prove most difficult, she said.

But Ondo enjoys getting out of her comfort zone and being away from home aside from the times that she finds herself missing it. Traveling, for Ondo, is both “rewarding as much as it is challenging”.

The most rewarding aspects of being at UNH have been getting to know her new home and meeting new people. The people that she has met have been friendly and kind, Ondo said.

“There are more accepting and open-minded people here than people think,” Ondo said.

The feeling of being an outsider is, unexpectedly enough, less prominent here than in Spain for Ondo.

Since Ondo is also African, she was often treated as less Spanish than others because of the color of her skin in Spain. When she moved to the U.S., she was shocked at how much diversity there was.

“I like having diversity and color surrounding me, because I feel like less of an outsider,” Ondo said, pointing at her skin.

“My friends tell me that there isn’t diversity at this school, but for me, I don’t see that. This is so much better compared to Spain.”

That isn’t her only reason for wanting diversity to surround her. Immersing herself in several cultures is what she aspires to do, Ondo said. She has been influenced by so many cultures throughout her life that it has become hard to identify herself with only one when asked.

“I will say that I’m still developing my identity,” Ondo said. “Becoming a citizen of the world is what I aim to be.”

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