Student Shares His Journey from El Salvador to Liberty University

The smell of ethnic food and the sound of student chatter poured out of the International Student Center on Sept. 15 at the Latin American Open House.

Jonathan Herrera is one of many international students at Liberty University who has a story and home culture he loves to share with others.

Herrera immigrated to the United States in 2014 from El Salvador, and he  found cultural differences immediately.

“There are general things [that are different] of course, like the food, not being able to speak my own language… but I don’t look at those things as challenges,” Herrera said. “I see them as an opportunity to learn about the diversity that God has created and being able to celebrate those different things.” 

Herrera is still deeply passionate about his home country. 

“It’s the smallest country in Central America. Although it is the smallest, it is the most populated country,” Herrera said.

Herrera said that because of the country’s political climate and economic situation, violence had been a severe problem until there was a change of government in 2018. 

“Before we were dominated by two political parties that unfortunately became very corrupt. And then out of these two parties came another candidate…and the people in El Salvador voted for him massively because they were tired of the cycle of corruption,” Herrera said. “He came into office and a lot of things have changed…this past year has had the least crimes in the history of El Salvador.”

Herrera said that despite the difficulties COVID-19 caused, El Salvador is still progressing. The economy is improving, hospital standards are changing, and more people are coming to visit and enjoy the culture. 

“It’s like a new revolution of new things that El Salvador is going through right now. They’re trying to be one of the primary economies in Central America,” Herrera said. It’s so exciting because a lot of people don’t know that, and now I believe it’s the time for us to say that we’ve been struggling a lot, but these are the steps that we are taking…. And we want to succeed, and we want to have a better life.”  

Herrera decided to come to Liberty University because he wanted to attend a Christian University. After talking to a friend about Liberty, he came to visit. 

“[I] came to [Liberty] and fell in love with it. From the first minute that I came, I felt like there was something different in this campus, and I wanted to be part of that, I wanted to be a part of whatever God was doing here,” Herrera said.

Herrera had some challenges when he was first adjusting to Liberty, however. 

“It was hard for me because I didn’t know anybody [here],” Herrera said. “But it was through the International Student Center that I was able to connect to a lot of people and I even connected with some other people from my country. It helped me to be able to connect to students who understood me and who were going through the same situations I was going through.” 

Herrera also said his hall helped him to connect with the Liberty community. 

“[My hallmates] were aware that I was an international student, they were aware that this was my first time at Liberty, and they stepped into my life to help me,” Herrera said. “I remember my RA’s talking to me, my CGL talking to me, and even my roommate. Instead of him pushing me to the side, he was very receptive and approachable. He wanted to make sure that he was helping me. So, the people here at Liberty have made it a lot easier to connect.”

Overall, Herrera is proud of his country, loves his life at Liberty, and is excited to connect with others both in the International Student Center and around campus. He also wants to raise awareness on campus about the international student culture.

 “A lot of times, students focus on going internationally to learn another culture,” Herrera said. “But people don’t realize that there are already 800 international students who are living here, who are living with them in the residence halls. I would like to encourage the domestic students to engage. [The International Student Center] has different events for everybody…. So, use this opportunity that God has given you to grow a friendship and also grow in cultural knowledge.”

Ashleigh Brown is a Feature Reporter.

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