KOKOMO, Ind. — When Yudi Gil Hernandez came to the United States from Colombia, her plan was to take a few English classes to improve her skills, and then return home to be a language teacher.
With the help of a variety of mentors at Indiana University Kokomo, she’s found a new home, and a new career focus in psychology.
“IU Kokomo has changed my life, by opening great opportunities to work with others,” she said. “I have learned very much from meeting people here, classmates, and amazing professors and advisors.”
Great teachers along the way have helped her adjust to life in the United States and find her path to success in college.
Early on, she met J.R. Pico, senior lecturer in Spanish who, like her, is from Colombia. He offered advice and support on transitioning to life here, and was especially helpful when she was homesick. He recommended her for a job as a Spanish tutor in the campus writing center.
In addition, she was encouraged to get involved in campus life and participate in leadership retreats. Multiple psychology faculty members have served as mentors, most recently with a project she presented at the Undergraduate Research Symposium.
“Everyone I have encountered, every professor, has contributed to my success,” Hernandez said. “I could mention every one of them as being great and caring about how I do here.”
This past year has been difficult with COVID-19 restrictions, meaning she can’t go home to visit family as she usually would. She lives with a host family in Cicero and suffered the loss of her host father to the virus early in the pandemic. He was a physician, she added, and being from India, could understand some of her struggles as an international student. She continues to live with her host mother and sister.
“His culture was similar to mine, and we got along really well,” she said. “Him not being at the house is very different. Right now it’s just the three of us, and we are closer than we used to be.”
While her original intent was to return to South America, Hernandez now plans to stay in the U.S. and to return to campus to earn a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling in the near future. She has felt both welcomed and supported on campus and in the community.
“IU Kokomo is a really good school and I have loved my professors,” she said. “I have experienced kindness from so many people. People ask me about and are interested in my culture. They hear my accent and are very interested. They want to know more about where I am from, and about the culture is, and what it’s like to travel there.”