Raquel Aranibar, an international student from Bolivia, has been in the United States for four years, and she has seen many differences between the culture she knew and the culture in which she is now immersed.
Aranibar, a 26-year-old business administration major, comes from “a city known for its welcoming people and hospitality” in Bolivia.
Bolivia is located in South America, and Aranibar’s hometown, Santa Cruz, has a population of about 3 million people. It’s a sharp contrast to the quiet safety of Bluffton, she said.
When she first arrived in the U.S., Aranibar was taken aback by Americans’ tradition of leftovers.
“In Bolivia, we usually cook the right amount for each meal, and we like to eat fresh meals so left overs is not something that a traditional Bolivian family will do,” she said.
Aranibar picked Bluffton because of the friends she made in Bolivia. Many of the American students she met while still living in Bolivia were doing missionary work, and she grew so close to them that she chose to follow them here to Bluffton.
“They’re the main reason I decided to transfer here,” she said.
She also has great relationships with her professors that she might not have had if she chose to go somewhere else.
“I have more than one favorite professor, but the number one I think it would be Gary Schiefer,” she said.
One downside to transferring to be with her friends was leaving most of her family behind in Bolivia. She left parents, siblings, nieces and nephews.
“It used to be quite hard when I first came to the U.S.,” she said. “After the second year away from home, it wasn’t as hard as the first year.”
Aranibar has now started her own family. She and her husband live here in Bluffton, but that doesn’t replace the love she has for her family back home.
“Now that I’m married, it’s all easier, because I have my own family now. But there are some days when I miss my dad, siblings and especially my niece and nephew terribly,” she said.
Aranibar communicates regularly with her family through an app called WhatsApp.
Being an international student has given Aranibar opportunities that she might not have had in Bolivia. She is interested in staying in the U.S. for at least a few years after graduating. She’s also interested starting her own business and plans to use the knowledge she gained at Bluffton in her life at home.
“I’d like to find an internship in the States before going back home,” she said. “I’d like to get some experience in the real world of business and then eventually start my own business in my city.”