Maria Romero Rodriguez came to Wichita State University from Madrid, Spain to study and compete in the pentathlon and heptathlon for the track and field team. She will graduate in May and compete at Cessna Stadium in the American Athletic Conference Outdoor Championships with her family in attendance.
Maria is one of more than 2,400 students eligible for spring 2022 graduation. Learn more about her time at Wichita State and what is next for the grad.
I am majoring in marketing with minors in communication and management.
What made you want to attend Wichita State?
As soon as I graduated from high school, I was ready to start a new chapter in my life and I decided to come to the United States to continue my academic and athletic career. I was looking for a university where I could study what I wanted and compete in track and field.
I didn’t know about WSU until Paula Garcia contacted me. Paula was running track at Wichita State while I was looking for universities to attend in the US. Coincidentally, she is from the same area in Spain as me. She told me that the coaches at WSU wanted to recruit international athletes and asked if I was interested. I told Paula I was very interested, and I started communicating with the coaches. It went great.
Furthermore, there was another Spanish athlete on the team, Claudia Rojo. After all the good things that Paula and Claudia had to say about WSU and the track and field team, I decided to come to WSU. I also did some research first, but listening to how happy they were at WSU was very calming and felt very safe, especially for my parents. I’m very thankful I picked WSU because it’s been the best experience of my life.
How are you feeling leading up to graduation?
I’m looking forward to my graduation very much because I think I’ve worked very hard in the last five years to get here. I’m also very excited because Wichita State is hosting the AAC Championships the same weekend as graduation and my family is coming.
They will get to watch me compete after many years and attend the commencement ceremony. I will get to celebrate my graduation with the people I love the most.
What was been your biggest challenge as a student, and how did you overcome it?
My biggest challenge when I first got here was the language barrier. I thought I knew English before I came to the US, but I still had a hard time understanding and speaking English. I was also very shy, so it took me a long time to feel confident - although I don’t have that problem anymore.
Currently, my biggest challenge is finding a balance between academics, work, track and field, and my personal life. I’ve been struggling to find time to relax in the last couple years, but that is something I’m working on.
What has been your most helpful learning experience at Wichita State?
This year, I was part of the Widener Global Leaders Program, which I am also graduating from this May. Thanks to this program, I learned about leadership through different concepts in business, communication, and music. It’s been the most hands-on experience I’ve ever participated in at WSU.
My favorite part was to do a service project, where the other participants and I had to organize a food/hygiene drive for the Shocker Support Locker. We finished this project this spring and we collected more than 1,000 items. I’m very happy about how it turned out.
What are your plans after graduation?
I’ll be continuing with my career at WSU. I got accepted into the Master of Arts in communication at WSU and I’ll be a graduate teaching associate for the Elliott School of Communication, which I’m very excited about. I’ll be also taking my sixth and final year of track.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect your time at Wichita State?
The pandemic created a lot of uncertainty in my life. First, the track and field season was cancelled. It was very sad because we had trained hard for months to get ready for the season which never happened. But it was for our own safety, so I believe it was the right choice.
I then got stuck in the U.S. over the summer, because it wasn’t safe to go back home. This was devastating because Spain initiated a 99-day quarantine which only allowed people to leave their homes to buy groceries. It was very hard to watch.
That summer, I remembered that WSU offered different resources to international students such as financial aid and mental health treatment. The athletics department supported me, especially, by helping me get medical insurance for the summer and more. All the help I received from WSU was appreciated when all international students were going through a tough time.
The pandemic wasn’t easy for anyone. It made me appreciate and value the little things more, such as in-person classes, hanging out with friends, and traveling. I’m just very glad that life is almost feeling like normal again.
What advice would you give other Wichita State students?
My advice to Wichita State students would be to enjoy every day of their college experience and make the most of it. Take advantage of all the resources that WSU offers, such as events, organizations, and networking. Your college years will be the best years of your life, and believe me when I say that they will fly by.