Panama City native takes on SMU
Sophomore engineering management student Dagmar Garcia has lived in Panama City, Panama, her whole life, but, like many Panamanians, she decided to attend college in the U.S.
“Going to college in the U.S. is extremely common in Panama for the simple reason that we have a better chance of education here,” Garcia said.
Garcia applied to eight U.S. universities, but when she visited SMU, she immediately knew that it was the right place for her.
“I fell in love with Dallas because it didn’t make me feel so far away from home,” said Garcia.
Garcia believes that SMU has become so popular with students from Panama because, aside from it being a great school, it’s located in an area where they feel safe. It’s an area that their parents feel comfortable letting them live in for four years, she said.
Garcia’s friends believe that her social skills have helped her adapt to life in the states.
“I think adapting was easy for Dagmar because she’s so personable,” said freshman Lauren Hutchinson.
But Garcia admits that being an international student has its challenges:
“Although I’ve known English since I was a little girl, my greatest struggle was the fact that English is my second language,” Garcia said. “When I first got here, I sometimes struggled to communicate with professors in moments when I was frustrated with school.”
After two years, she’s now comfortable with her English speaking abilities, which has made her feel more confident with her classes and, most importantly, with herself, Garcia said.
The most foreign thing about SMU for her was Greek Life. When she told her parents that she was going to join a sorority, they were completely confused about what that meant, said Garcia.
“We had only heard about sororities in movies and TV shows,” Garcia said.
Garcia’s collegiate experience would have been very different if she stayed in Panama, and she notices how little her friends who stayed home have changed.
“They lack independence and world knowledge,” Garcia said. “They have stayed in the little bubble of Panama’s society.”
If she stayed home, she would have depended on her parents for every single thing, Garcia said. Independence is the most important thing she’s learned in college, and it has allowed her to see the world from a different point of view.
“A perspective that’s completely different from what I’ve been used to throughout my life in Panama,” Garcia said. “I am happy to call Dallas my home for two more years.”