Hello! My name is Steven Escobar-Mendez and I am a 2021-2022 Gilman Alumni Ambassador. As a Gilman Scholar, I completed my study abroad in Nepal and Jordan during the Spring 2021 semester.
“A tree, regardless of how tall it gets, still relies on its roots”
Those are the words inspired by the place that I called my home. In my time abroad, the biggest lesson was reflection, where I began and where I have ended up. Learning about how much life can change by taking chances regardless of whether it succeeds or fails.
In the start, my home was a predominantly immigrant community of people from all across Latin America, who risked everything to reach the United States. Every historical moment in Latin America was represented in my community, and changed due to the single independent choice. I heard stories as far as the Falkland war in Argentina to the wars of Mexico. Each individual decided to leave and start a life in a new country, and changed the lives of future generations, mine being the first. This motivated me to take my own risks of going to college because during this period, I was seen as a mere ‘street kid’ by the surrounding city. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of those who came before me, but in my own version.
It began to take shape as I learned more about my Hispanic roots from the community and began getting an education. My life changed in July, 2018 when I got accepted into my institution and left my home at 5:30 in the morning to get an education. I had no idea how much my life would change, I only knew that I would be creating my own path from here on out. Once at college, I sought to study ways in which I could make a positive impact on the stories of migrants that I heard years ago. The stories of migrants, why they left and their struggles were what inspired my goal to get education in the first place.
I decided to take a chance once in the possibility of studying abroad. I did not have a specific country in mind, only wanting a program that would help me prepare for law school. Before the Gilman, I already began working multiple jobs such as secretary, painter, and landscaper to be able to study abroad. However, it all changed once I heard about the Gilman Scholarship. The Gilman Scholarship opened that opportunity to study abroad regardless of my own limits. A chance to gain experience outside of the United States.
I was able to travel to four different countries in the span of three months before the pandemic sent me back to the United States. I studied the human rights of indigenous people and migrants, witnessing similarities such as how Nepal says farewell to those leaving the country being similar to how Guatemala does so, through a gift to remember one’s roots and safe return. I also witnessed the differences in those topics such as hearing prayers across the neighborhood in Amman compared to loud music in the States. I witnessed the sun rise over the hills in Pokhara, Nepal; the sun shine over the water in Qatar; and groups advocating for human rights through legislation and start-ups. Then the email came, I had to return home early due to the pandemic. It was an incredible experience which still continued after returning due to the pandemic maintaining connections with the people I met throughout my journey.
I took more chances, to intern virtually abroad; to study international law; to become a Gilman Ambassador; and to reflect on how far I have come from a single choice in 2018
Life is full of unexpected events but it only takes one step to change the course of your own life