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Becoming Lions: Senior Shares Her Journey from Honduras to Saint Leo

Montserrat “Montse” Molina is a senior majoring in multimedia management at Saint Leo University in St. Leo, FL. Her sister, Monica, also attended Saint Leo and graduated in 2018. They both grew up in Honduras and this is the story of how their move from Honduras to the U.S. led them to become Lions.

A photo of Monica Molina, a Saint Leo University alumna (left) standing next to her sister, Montse Molina (right), a current Saint Leo University senior; both are dressed nicely and are smiling and it appears to be at Christmas time in their home

Growing up in Honduras

When you think about a Third World country while living in the United States, you’re probably aware that it is very different. Poverty is common for most of the country, fixing roads isn’t a priority, and with this, you can probably assume that the government is highly corrupt. But what you don’t know is this despite all these circumstances, the country is breathtakingly beautiful. And yes, I am biased.

My family consists of me and three sisters, a mother, and a father. We were all born in Honduras, except for my mom who was born in Washington, D.C . This fact later becomes a huge part of why we moved to the U. S. Honduras has beautiful flora and fauna, the mountains are unbelievable, and we are known for having the second largest coral reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef . Whatever you are looking for, we’ve got it.

There are also a number of unique experiences that you aren’t able to do in other countries. Have you ever heard of buying corn with delicious toppings on the side of the road in a country that probably has the dirtiest water in the world? I know what you’re thinking—YUM! But on a serious note, the corn is strikingly delicious; the risk is worth it.

The 11 years I lived in Honduras were memorable. Even if at times I was too little to remember a lot, the things I do remember are in my heart forever. Living in Honduras was an experience in itself. Although it isn’t my home anymore, I am grateful that I can still go back and enjoy the country I grew up in.

My sisters and I went to an all-girl s Catholic school where my mom taught as well. This meant that we became inseparable. We didn’t really have control over this since we ran into each other constantly. My mom was within a 5 -minute walking distance from us and we always knew where she was. This became one of my fondest memories of living in Honduras. I loved that my family came with me wherever I went, and they weren’t far when I needed them.

Moving from Honduras to the U.S.

We moved to the United States on January 9, 2011. I was 11 years old. I didn’t know what to expect but I was definitely excited. I don’t think I realized how big this was going to be in my family’s life. We packed our lives into 13 suitcases , and we were off to Fort Lauderdale.

My first memory being here was when we were at my aunt's house and I was jumping on the trampoline with my cousins. I looked over my shoulder and I saw my dad looking at me with tears in his eyes. My young age didn’t allow me to fully comprehend the meaning of those tears, but I knew they meant a lot more than I could understand. I recently asked my dad why he teared up that day and he said, “I was so happy to know that we were going to have a better life than what I had imagined.”

As you can probably assume, moving a family of six was a mission in itself, and times weren’t always easy, but the struggle was always worth it. There were several things we had to get adjusted to—one of the hardest was that my sisters and I had to attend separate schools. Michelle was 17 so she went to high school, Monica and I attended the same middle school, Mia attended elementary school, and my mom was no longer a teacher. This was the first time we had known separation from each other in this way.

We were fully bilingual , but getting used to speaking English constantly was also very challenging. Everyone in my family was going through the same challenges, but they all affected us differently.

Moving a two-and-a-half-hour plane ride away from our country of origin felt like we had moved an entire world away. Every struggle we faced, whether it be culture shock or noticing customs we weren’t used to, was a learning lesson. It always helped that we had each other’s company. As a family, we knew that the country we were now living in opened up a lot of opportunities for us and I knew how many people wish they had it as easy as we did. This became something about which I constantly tried to remind myself.

How I Ended up at Saint Leo University

When I was a senior in high school, just like my other classmates were doing, I applied to a few universities to further my education. I knew that this opportunity in itself was humbling : to be able to attend a university in the U.S. I applied and got accepted to some schools. I applied to Saint Leo University because my big sister, Monica, had been attending for two years at that point, and she had never complained about it.

I thought to myself, “I’ll give this school a shot. There has to be a reason why she loves it so much.” My parents loved the idea of me attending Saint Leo – not only because they are helicopter parents and knew that I would be looked over by my big sister, but also because I could regain the Catholic foundation with which I grew up. I told myself I would give it a shot, and I would see how it went after a year.

Saint Leo University had always caught my attention because of my sister, but I also wondered if the school was going to work for me and if I was going to be able to find my place just as my sister did when she had first arrived. Before attending, I was pretty convinced I was going to transfer after my freshman year since I always thought I had a “big school personality.”

Arriving on my first day as a freshman was nerve-wracking. I was leaving home and going my own way for the first time ever. The first interaction I had was with an Orientation Leader, I remember him coming up to me and all my nervous energy instantly disappeared. He was so welcoming, and I knew he genuinely cared and wanted to help me. I thought to myself, “i f there were people like him at this school, I know I will be just fine. ” My first year at Saint Leo was one of my best; it had instantly become my home away from home.

Being a senior and looking back at my college career here at Saint Leo has made me feel so blessed that I decided to stay. I found my close group of friends, I got involved with University Ministry, I became an resident assistant, and I created lifelong friendships with my professors. Yes, my professors! I quickly realized that the fact I could email, call, or text my professors was a total luxury. I encountered several memorable moments at this university and was offered opportunities that one can only dream of. It’s safe to say that staying instead of transferring was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Author bio: Montserrat Molina is a senior at Saint Leo University, majoring in multimedia management. After college, she hopes to get a job at a marketing or advertising firm in the Tampa Bay area. While in college, she produced a podcast about her family’s story of moving from Honduras to the U.S. and how it impacted all of them differently. Listen to one of the episodes below.

 
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