Figueroa Arrivillaga hopes to take WSU skills home to Guatemala
Jan 22, 2014 3:32 PM | Print
International student Marinés Figueroa Arrivillaga was drawn to Wichita State University from her native Guatemala because of the reputation of the Elliott School of Communication and the world-class education she knew she'd receive as a Shocker.
Figueroa Arrivillaga is a double major at Wichita State, studying political science and strategic communication, after studying law at the Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala before coming to Kansas. She is director of public relations for WSU's Student Government Association and graduates in spring 2014.
Figueroa Arrivillaga's family comes from the second largest city in Guatemala, Quetzaltenango, which is roughly the size of Wichita. The oldest of three daughters, Figueroa Arrivillaga's father is a neonatal pediatrician, and her mother – a teacher until she decided to become a stay-at-home mom – handles the family's affairs. Figueroa Arrivillaga says she's trying to get her younger sister, who is the eighth ranked tennis player in the Guatemala, to come and play for Wichita State.
"My parents were very invested in our education," said Figueroa Arrivillaga.
She and her sisters attended an American school in her hometown from the first through 12th grade, and Figueroa Arrivillaga is fluent in Spanish, English and French.
"We've been immersed in English for so long that we're kind of American, kind of Guatemalan," she said. "The joke is that our first language is Spanglish because we learned both at the same time. It gets us in trouble with my dad. He's like, 'Pick one and stick to it for a coherent sentence.' That's always challenging."
After high school, Figueroa Arrivillaga wanted to go into Guatemalan politics, which is why she went to law school. But she realized that a law degree was limiting because she could only practice law in Guatemala and she wanted the flexibility to be able to practice abroad. That's what brought her to Kansas.
The road to Wichita
"I chose Wichita State because I wanted a city environment with a small town feel to it," said Figueroa Arrivillaga. "Since it was my first time living abroad, I wanted to make sure I wouldn't be royally ignored by all the big, mean city people, but I also wasn't comfortable with having people up in my business in a town that was too small. I didn't want to settle for a school that wasn't as good just because it was cheaper, and WSU reconciled all those issues for me: a city with a small town feel, plus academics plus affordability – that's everything Wichita State offered."
The first time Figueroa Arrivillaga heard about Wichita State was when it was recommended to her by a professional college consultant in Guatemala. He referred her to the Elliott School of Communication.
"It's rather famous," Figueroa Arrivillaga said of the Elliott School, "and I don't think people realize how well-known and respected it is. The Elliott School is part of the reason I chose to come here."
Now that she's a senior, Figueroa Arrivillaga's respect for the Elliott School has grown.
"I love the Elliott School. I love how the instructors are not just teaching, but they're actually experts. It really helps to put the subject into perspective and gives students a taste of what it's like in the professional world. The Elliott classrooms are nice, and they invest in wonderful equipment and technology to give students an edge when they graduate."
When she decided to apply to attend Wichita State, Figueroa Arrivillaga knew she'd be an international student, but the reality of what that meant and how it would affect her wasn't something she was prepared for.
Although Figueroa Arrivillaga grew up surrounded by people from the United States and their pop culture, she said living in a foreign country can be overwhelming.
"The funny thing is, while I'm comfortable with my English skills, there are technical terms I still don't know," she said, "everyday things like recipe instructions or getting your hair done without knowing the appropriate terms. Then there's the food: like any international student will tell you, the food takes some getting used to."
After graduation, Figueroa Arrivillaga is considering relocating to Dallas to pursue a master's degree in communication studies. Long term, she's interested in solving problems in her home country, only she wants to do it indirectly.
"I would love to do political image consulting or political campaign management or communication of political campaigns somewhere in Latin America," said Figueroa Arrivillaga. "I think my experience in the United States and at Wichita State has given me a lot of tools to succeed in a lot of different fields for Latin America. I feel like with those skills I can do great things."
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