Student profile: Paulina Diaz ’20

Paulina DiazCassopolis, Mich.

MAJOR: Exercise science as a start for a degree in occupational therapy
ACTIVITIES: Varsity volleyball, intramural basketball

Cross cultural life

I was born in Costa Rica, in the small town of Jerico. When I was five, my family moved to Michigan because of a great opportunity my aunt provided my mom to work as a cook at Camp Friedenswald, a Mennonite camp. I was very young when I lived in Costa Rica so my memory of living in that culture is poor, but the move to the U.S. did not stop my family from raising me with the Costa Rican culture in Michigan. Spanish is my first language, followed by English. I think having that as a part of my life and being able to relate to different types of people because of it, helped me develop a curiosity about both worlds and created my friendly, outgoing personality. Costa Rica has an atmosphere that is always buzzing with excitement, and I miss that – along with the amazing weather and landscape sites.

Start here

I learned about Hesston through Joy (Smith) ’96 Yoder, who used to be my neighbor and now is a professor in Hesston’s nursing program. She helped me get in contact with the volleyball coach, DeeDee (Martin) ’02 Landes. I chose to start here because I wanted an adventure and to travel out of state. My visit to campus was amazing and I felt so welcomed and at home. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of such a special place. Having grown up at Camp Friedenswald, and attending every summer, I was familiar with the Mennonite culture. Based on that and my visit, I anticipated a great experience at Hesston, but I wasn’t expecting that I would make such great relationships with people so quickly. The people here have truly made this place my home away from home. It’s filled with so many cultures, languages, backgrounds, stories, opinions and ideas, and it still is accepting of each person. It’s a place where I can be 100 percent myself and know I am accepted and loved. I love it!

I also appreciate that Hesston does so much toward making the transition for international students so smooth. From offering so much support – both academically and personally – as they acclimate, to the Cultures Fair where they get to share pieces of their world with their friends and peers, to showcasing their flag around campus to let them know they are cared for. Having been part of two worlds, I have a little bit of an understanding of what they might be experiencing.

For the love of the game

Volleyball was a big part of my college decision. I love the sport so much and I wasn’t ready to let go of it. So I was excited that DeeDee was interested in having me be part of the team, too. Through my first college season, I’ve learned that collegiate sports take a lot more time and dedication than high school, and with that comes more responsibility. Being a college athlete has allowed me to practice my time management skills and responsibility. It has also showed me how important team work is, especially early in the season when everyone is still getting to know each other.