In general, the Study Abroad Veritas word press/blog is targeted towards prospective and current international students. One of the major goals of the international program at Veritas is integrating local and international students to create connections, networks, and friendships. Through interpersonal relationships, students enhance their study abroad experience and have networks for their professional careers. Therefore, I took the opportunity to interview a local student at Veritas, and share with you this unique story.

Meet my friend… Arnaldo Enrique Belfort LampoImage

Arnaldo is a great resource in Veritas, as he too is an international student from Venezuela. Arnaldo was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela.  It was five years ago that his family decided to move to Costa Rica. He remembers Venezuela fondly, as a country filled with a beautiful array of landscapes: deserts, mountains, and beaches. Venezuela is full of incredible places to visit, sites to see, and experiences of a lifetime. Once Arnaldo moved to Costa Rica, he was shocked by the “big city” of San José. He remembers, “San José is not a city. It is a small town.” After comparing many photos of the two cities, it did not take long to see the differences in size. San José is a large city and Costa Rica’s capital, but cannot compare to Caracas, the capital of Venezuela.ImageImage

Arnaldo is studying advertising and design at Veritas; and congratulations are in order, as he will be graduating after this block. He is finishing up his thesis, which is a Venezuelan cookbook. Que chiva! Arnaldo has compiled recipes native to Venezuelan from his past, specifically a special influence in his life, his grandmother. This compilation of Venezuelan recipes is designed as a resource of authentic home-style cooking for Venezuelan immigrants. Immigrants that no longer live within Venezuela can reconnect with their culture and identity through his cookbook. Another culinary arts influence is his mother, who is a chef in a local Costa Rican restaurant.

Through our conversation, I noticed Arnaldo was nostalgic of Venezuela, especially Venezuelan culture. He shared a few fond memories he had of visiting his grandmother’s home on Isla de Margarita, and other unique experiences such as cultural activities and festivals. For instance, he mentioned the Diablos de Yare, a religious festival celebrated in Venezuela during Semana Santa. He reminisced about the incredible art, costume, and dance during the festivities.

Arnaldo has many interests related to the arts such as his love for acting, painting, sculpting, and photography. He acts at the student led theater at Veritas, and enjoys acrylic painting, and photography of Costa Rica and its many wonders. During his life in Venezuela, Arnaldo studied sculpture of action figures, and has an impressive profile of different figures he has created.

During first year at Veritas, Arnaldo said he was challenged in his courses at Veritas. Aside from his academics,  he did not have a problem making friends, as he is a is a sociable person. He said during his academic career at Veritas, he has made many friends from all over the world: China, US, Panama, Ecuador, etc. He shared his many opportunities he has had through Veritas such as interacting and meeting international artists, taking unique courses as an advertising major, and even renting free movies every weekend from the library. Once he was immersed in Costa Rican life, he became an “honorary Costa Rican.” Arnaldo explained, “I am happy in Costa Rica, even though it is not where I was born. My country is where I decide to live.”

Along with his intensive studies, Arnaldo was one of the major supporters of Tico Mentors (2011) also known as Gringo Mentors. The program was designed as an opportunity for Tico or local students to become mentors for international students. It was a great pathway from international students to make local friends. Now, the program is more formally known as the International Club. Arnaldo has volunteered his time and committed to helping and supporting the international club by maintaining the Facebook feed, designing logos and labels, and more. In the past, the Tico Mentors organized a fun weekend getaway for members of the club to intermingle, party, and learn about each other through shared experiences. From is activity with the international club, he was offered a position as an events coordinator within the Center of International Programs at Veritas. Arnaldo is responsible for creating and posting fun activities that integrate local and international students. The goals of the events are to create lines of communication, and build relationships between the two groups.

Arnaldo shared two important ways to integrate international and local students:

  1. COMMUNICATION AND NETWORKING: It is important for all schools within Veritas to communicate information about programs, and upcoming events and activities. Therefore, all have the students have the information and can participate in activities. Interconnection of schools/departments is key component to reach this goal.
  2. TRUE YOU: Be yourself! It sounds simple, but it is important to break the ice when making new friends. Do not be afraid to introduce yourself, and communicate the best way you can. Both parities are interested in getting to know one another and making new friends.

My final question was what is your best advice for international students. Arnaldo reintegrated, “Be yourself. :]”  Through my experience, being myself and putting myself out there to meet new people has been the most rewarding experience of my study abroad.


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