Starting from scratch

In her home country of the Philippines, Therese Garcia was attending high school and working as a freelance model. Garcia modeled for commercials, print ads, and various other gigs in Manila. Her parents, who lived in the U.S. petitioned for her to join them in 2018. After high school, at the age of 18, Garcia traveled alone to San Diego where a new life awaited her.

 

Even though Garcia had already graduated high school in the Philippines, she quickly realized she needed to take supplementary courses to enroll in college. “I was basically starting from scratch,” said Garcia. She attended classes at the Grossmont Adult School for eight months until she applied for and passed her high school equivalency exam.

 

New and Strange Experiences

Garcia was excited, but equally nervous to start college. One of her biggest concerns was the language barrier. Even though she learned English as a second language in the Philippines, she worried about the linguistic challenges she would potentially face. “What if I don’t get what the professor is saying?” said Garcia.

 

Aside from language worries, Garcia also experienced culture shock in the U.S.  Much of what she knew about the U.S. was drawn from Hollywood movies. “It’s a different world with different people,” says Garcia.

 

She describes having to learn different American customs, such as greeting strangers. When she first arrived in the United State, she found it odd that strangers would bid each other “hello” or “good morning” when they didn’t know each other. This is not customary in the Philippines. In addition to greetings, Garcia says she also had to learn how to be respectful about topics such as race. “I didn’t know that you guys [Americans] were struggling with racial issues. The sociology classes I took at Cuyamaca helped me with that a lot,” said Garcia.

 

It Takes a Village

Despite these fears, Garcia says the staff and faculty at Cuyamaca made her new journey much more comfortable than expected. The Pathways Program at Cuyamaca was instrumental in her academic journey. The staff assisted with all her applications, as well as financial aid. “The resources are everywhere (at Cuyamaca). Whenever you need them, they’re there,” said Garcia.

 

As she nears graduation, Garcia credits her time at Cuyamaca for helping prepare for university experience, especially her time with the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. “Being part of Phi Theta Kappa really helps me with my leadership and how I talk to people, especially professors,” says Garcia.

 

Garcia is now preparing to transfer to Fresno State University where she plans to complete her bachelor’s degree in nutritional science.