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We Are Liberal Arts: Broaden Your Horizons

The newest video in the We Are Liberal Arts series features the stories of first-generation students gaining experience abroad in Costa Rica.

By Rachel Knight ’18

As a freshman at Texas A&M University, Vanessa Hernandez ‘22 was surprised to find herself 31,000 feet in the air on her way to Costa Rica. But there she was, traveling with the College of Liberal Arts Regents’ Scholars Initiative (RSI) community—a group of first-generation college students focused on gaining academic success skills, engaging with the college and university, and developing leadership skills. As one of the 80 students in the college’s RSI program, Hernandez was about to broaden her horizons, literally and figuratively. 

“I’ve always wanted to travel,” Hernandez said. “The more you get to explore, the more insight you get into what you do.”

College of Liberal Arts RSI students are also recipients of the Regents’ Scholarship, which is designed to assist first-generation college students in achieving their educational goals at Texas A&M. 

“It is such a big help,” Khiara Estrada ‘22, an RSI community member, said. “Because of this scholarship, I was able to come to my dream school.”

Regents’ Scholarship recipients receive up to $5,000 per year for up to four years. However, the scholarship doesn’t include a study abroad experience; that funding is provided by the college, for which international experience is a priority.

Hernandez anticipated some of the opportunities RSI offered, such as the small weekly meetings led by peer mentors, who are upper-level former RSI students themselves, and attending local events like guest lectures. However, she did not anticipate gaining an international experience, particularly so early in her academic career. 

“I never thought I’d be going abroad my freshman year,” Hernandez said. “It’s great that the College of Liberal Arts allows us to do this. I know there are other students in other colleges who don’t have the chance to study abroad their freshmen year.”

Christie Dunn, College of Liberal Arts International Programs Manager, said many RSI students have never traveled outside of Texas, much less the United States, before studying in Costa Rica as an RSI participant. 

“The purpose is to expose the Regent Scholars to something new and to provide them an opportunity to grow and develop some intercultural competence as well,” Dunn said. “The students have a renewed sense of confidence in their own abilities and a new sense of understanding that they can take with them moving forward.”

Students like Ronaldo Duran ‘22 view the spring break trip abroad as a valuable chance to gain international experiences while learning about selfless service. 

“It helps us open our minds more,” Duran explained. “It helps us to be aware of what’s going on around the world and make a better future for ourselves.”

College of Liberal Arts RSI students start their freshman year with a flying leap, and finish it knowing that the sky is the limit in their future endeavors.


Learn more about the RSI program here