Like so many other students, Barbara Gomez Aguinaga has a lot of support from her family in Jalisco, Mexico, but that doesn’t make being away from home any easier.
Gomez Aguinaga, a political science major who will graduate this semester, said she will be the second person in her family to graduate from college.
She is following in the footsteps of her brother, Mauricio Gomez, who has also been an inspiration for her.
Gomez Aguinaga said there were many times when she thought she wanted to throw in the towel. Her first semester was the hardest, she said. With Spanish as her first language, she found it difficult to learn new concepts in English.
“I have to find a way to keep moving instead of going back to Mexico, having to start over,” she said.
And she did. Gomez Aguinaga will graduate this spring with a 4.0 grade point average after having started in the fall of 2010.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I just want to be done, but also I need to get a job — and it’s all so stressful.”
Upon graduation, Gomez Aguinaga wants to find a job working with a paralegal in immigration, she said. She said she worries she may not find a job. She has a student visa now, and, once she graduates, she will also have a work visa. If she doesn’t secure a job by July, though, she will have to return to Mexico.
The issue isn’t finding a job. She said she has found many people interested in her skills; the problem is that she can only work for a year on her visa, which tends to ward off potential employers.
As a student Gomez Aguinaga served as an advocate with the Refugee Well-Being Project and as a legal assistant at the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center. She is involved in many groups on campus as well.
Mauricio Gomez, Gomez Aguinaga’s brother, said he is proud of her. During his master’s in computer engineering, which he completed in 2012, Gomez Aguinaga went to live with him.
Gomez said he enjoys mentoring his sister and watching her succeed in her environment.
It’s good experience for Gomez Aguinaga to have gone through college without the immediate help of their parents, he said. In Mexico, their parents would be right there to help them out whenever they needed.
“I am really happy for her because she is graduating,” he said. “Not only that, but she has a passion on life and helps people around her.”
Maria de los Angeles Aguinaga Gomez, Barbara Gomez Aguinaga’s mother, came up to UNM just for the graduation ceremony.
She said she is very proud of her daughter and all that she has achieved.
“I am very happy,” she said.
Ryan Tannen contributed to this article.
Moriah Carty is the news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MoriahCarty.