With Generation ‘Z’ or post-millenials arriving to campus this fall, three freshmen share their unique stories on life in America, being an ACU legacy and going to college as an international athlete.
Amidst the 940 new students timidly walking in and out of the Brown Library, a curious Salvadoran freshman Sergio Lainez, an engineering major from Santa Ana, El Salvador, wanders in freely with his purple Wildcat Week lanyard dangling from his neck while carrying two small Amazon boxes, containing his U.S.-based phone just underneath his arm. His stocky physique, jet-black hair and light completion featuring tiny freckles along the sides of his faces allows him to blend in with the crowd.
His eyes. How wide and eager they beam when he enters Moody Coliseum carrying his GoPro camera in hopes of capturing every possible amount of footage — every bit counts.
“When I first walked into Moody, and there were people yelling and screaming, I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I need my camera,” said Lainez with his thick and quick Spanish accent. “So, I quickly got out of line, ran to my dorm, got my GoPro and went back in to shoot everything.”
Not only is Lainez eager to be a wildcat, he also believes that studying in the United States is one of the best decisions an international student can make, if given the chance. Lainez said he was thrilled when his dad popped the one question he was not expecting to hear.
“Really, one day my dad walked in, sat me down and said, ‘Sergio, would you like to study in the United States?’ and of course, I jumped up and said ‘Yes!’” Lainez said as he chuckles a bit and lifts his eyes slightly up.
After months of waiting, Lainez received his financial settlement plan and the results were in; he reached his tuition goal.
I was on the phone and they said ‘Congratulations, Sergio. You got more scholarship,’ and my parents and I were just so happy,” said Lainez.
Lainez said he isn’t just excited to be a freshman at an American school (although, that is true). Rather, he’s more excited to merge the two cultures he loves together.
“When I applied for the visa to come here, I just walked in and got it right away,” said Lainez, “And I was surprised to have it so quickly and I just literally walked in, gave the papers and immediately was given the visa. I just want to use the culture that I was established and mix it up with what I learn here. What really made me choose ACU was the quality, the personal treatment and American lifestyle that is so different from El Salvador.”
Hailing from the legendary Lewis family clan, Teddy Lewis, a freshman biology major from Houston, is the eleventh person in his family to attend ACU. The tall, curly-haired, blond boy walks around campus as if he has lived here his whole life.
“I remember one time we came for the Homecoming Parade, and my whole family and I played a game of baseball in front of the Hardin Administration Building,” said Lewis revealing a small smile. “That is honestly one of my fondest moments here and I will always remember that.”
Although Lewis may look like your average ACU student wearing a purple shirt with blind curlicues whisking along the sides of his hat, Lewis feels held to a higher standard. Since his childhood, Lewis was imbedded into the ACU tradition. Attending several homecomings, Sing Song’s and all the parades in between, Lewis said ACU has always been a part of his life. With his father, Guy Lewis, becoming a well-known resident of Mabee Hall (where Lewis is currently staying in), and having all four of his siblings attend ACU in the past, Lewis said he is kind of nervous of living up to those expectations.
You know, my parents didn’t like force me here and I know that’s what a lot of people think,” said Lewis. “But, I honestly had parents who said ‘We’ll support you wherever you go, but we’d really be happy if you went to ACU.”
Deciding to follow in the footsteps of his father, Lewis hopes to become a dentist.
“For a long time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” said Lewis. “Until I was in high school and I thought ‘you know, I can do what my dad does’. I just want to help people and since I lived with him for so long, I think I just got used to a lot of dental things. So, I just went for it and got all my classes and I guess, we’ll just see.”
Now, Lewis looks forward to the future in hopes of becoming better acquainted with his hall mates, make new friends and hopefully become a co-chair for Freshman Follies later this semester. All in all, Lewis just wants to be in the college game already.
“You know, at the beginning of the summer I was getting a little anxious,” said Lewis. “But, I think if I just get involved and listen to my advisors, I should be good. And here, it seems like the culture here is that everyone wants to help you. I’m just really excited.”
The clock was ticking. Ileana Mocciola, freshman marketing major from General Roca, Argentina, knew it was time to fill out the necessary forms to get her student visa. Paying the fees and countless pages of paperwork, Mocciola received her five-year visa and set herself up for the ultimate American experience. However, Mocciola knew the experience wouldn’t be the same nor would she ever be seen the same. Like most Latin American countries, an American degree is worth more in Argentina potentially leading to more income, better opportunities and higher standard of living — something Mocciola hopes to have once she finishes.
Needing to escape the winter season, Mocciola decided to come to ACU as a way to get ahead of the game, so to speak. Already signed on to play doubles on the women’s tennis team, Mocciola said she enjoyed the close and personalized attention she received even before applying.
When I first heard of ACU, I had coaches calling and calling me saying ‘You should come to ACU’,” said Mocciola. “And I would always be surprised on how they didn’t push me, but welcoming me with open arms.”
After attending a secular prep school, Mocciola decided ACU was the choice for her.
“Even though ACU is a religious school, I knew I would find people who were kind and care for each other,” said Mocciola. “And I think that’s exactly what I found.”
Her light brown hair, dark eyebrows and wide eyes makes her exotic accent sound almost musical. The constant stretching of the words and quick pick-up phrases makes Mocciola stand out from the rest of the girls. Mocciola is ready to have the full experience and is willing to pay the price.
As of now, Mocciola doesn’t intend to return back to Argentina. Like many international students, Mocciola has fallen for the American dream where anyone can say, do or act at any given moment. She cherishes the freedom that comes with a passport or visa stamped with the gold, embodied words “United States of America”. Until now, Mocciola is going to enjoy everything the U.S. has to offer because she knows nothing can be taken for granted when (and if) she returns to Argentina.
“There is a lot of poverty and there’s a lack of professionalism in the workplace,” said Mocciola. “And here, things actually work and the people are really loving and care for one another. Lots of education opportunities and in Argentina, the lifestyle including education is something that isn’t as valued. So, overall, the lifestyle is so different and I like it.”