An interview with International Student Ambassador, Sonia Alejandra Galo

April 22, 2021 / By: Salyani, Azaan
Image of Sonia Alejandra Galo

In many ways, international students enhance the St. Thomas experience. International student add to the diversity and culture of the student body and provide fresh perspectives and new ways of thinking. Meet Sonia Alejandra Galo, a sophomore from Honduras, and an International Student Ambassador. While Sonia (or Ale, as her friends call her) is still early on her path at St. Thomas, she demonstrates great initiative, and a strong desire to learn.

Sonia is in the Actuarial Science program, and an International Student Ambassador as well. As an ambassador, her duties are connecting with potential new students, welcoming incoming international students, and helping foster a sense community among new arrivals. Ale is also an RA (resident assistant), where she leads and communicates with a group of eighteen residents, under the goal of promoting an inclusive environment for all.

How did you start with St. Thomas?

Everything started in 6th grade, even then, I wanted to study abroad. [In high school] I started looking for schools, but I didn’t even know what I wanted to major in. During my senior year, one of my teachers recommended actuarial science, and that’s how I found out about St. Thomas. The Society of Actuaries has a website with a list of universities with actuarial programs, and St. Thomas is certified there.1 I was a little late for the applications, but I applied anyway, because I felt there wasn’t much to lose. At the time, I had no idea about the weather or what Minnesota was like, I was just so focused on the fact that it’s a great school for the major.

How was the transition to UST?

When I first started, I was really scared. English is not my first language, and I got so worried that no one would understand me, or worse, that I wouldn’t understand them. It’s a university with professors, in a whole new world, and it felt like a lot of change at once. I was concerned about being so far away from the people I love, too. I had no expectations since everything was so new. After a while, I realized that it’s okay to make mistakes; as international students, we’re here to learn. It wasn’t overnight, but I slowly became more confident in myself, learning more about St. Thomas and the resources they provide us with. It took a while, but I’m happy with how things turned out.

Which resources were the most helpful for you?

I would say office hours with my professors. I had some challenges in my Microeconomics class, because the professor taught at a fast pace, and I was still getting used to the language. I ended up reaching out to him, and he was able to provide the additional help I needed. I’m also on a scholarship from the Office of International Students and Scholars.

How is your experience being an International Student Ambassador?

It’s amazing. Actually, this week we were talking to prospective international students all over the world, so I had the chance to talk to people from South America, and Africa. It turns out one girl I spoke to went to my high school! It really blew my mind. It was a great experience connecting with people of different cultures, or ones similar to my own.

What do you hope to do post-graduation?

I would love to get some experience working in the insurance field here, especially because the insurance industry back home is so much smaller. If I can get a job here after I graduate, I think I’ll stay for a little while, but if not then I’ll return to Honduras.

Do you miss Honduras? What do you miss most?

Yes, I really do. Especially during winter, January and February get so cold! I really miss the warm weather, and my family of course. Today is actually Father’s Day back home. It’s so hard being away from them.

Is there anything you would do differently if you could start over?

That’s a really good question. I’d probably try to be more confident in myself. I feel that your freshman year is the time to make connections—you can do that in your sophomore year of course, but it can be a little harder. I was so quiet and shy then, and I feel like I missed out a little. It’s different now with Zoom and digital class, not many students want to unmute and ask questions, but pushing yourself to do that can create new opportunities.


Authors Note: UST is listed on the SOA website as a Center of Actuarial Excellence, the highest level of accreditation for education in the field. []