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Currents: elisa banuelos '09

“I Knew I Needed a Change”

Juan Banuelos had his daughter Elisa right where he wanted her—close to home at one of the large schools in the California State University system. And that's where Elisa thought she wanted to be, too. After all, it fit her criteria of a big school, and she was having a lot of fun as a business major. By sophomore year, though, the love affair was fading fast as she found it difficult to get the classes she wanted. Finding little guidance from her advisors, and feeling anonymous in classes of up to 150 students in which professors had to use microphones to lecture, she decided she needed to make a change.

From the other side of the country, Elisa's boyfriend and best friend since age 11, Armando, encouraged her to seek out a smaller school so she could experience the lively classroom interaction and personal attention he was enjoying as a student at Dartmouth College.

“I found Colby-Sawyer online and read about the required internship, which I thought was unique and great because a college degree isn't enough,” Elisa says. “Experience is what employers look for, and I thought that would suit me. When I found Colby-Sawyer, I stopped looking.”

Working closely with Transfer Coordinator Jen Jacques, Elisa filled out all the paperwork to make the transition. By January, she was enrolled at Colby- Sawyer.

“Jen Jacques was really nice, and she's probably the reason I'm here right now,” says Elisa. “I called her so many times, and she was so helpful. Through her is how I see all of Colby-Sawyer: warm and friendly.”

Not as warm was the day of Elisa's arrival on campus—she moved into her residence hall in the middle of a snowstorm. “It was the first time I'd seen snow in my whole life,” Elisa says. “At first it was pretty, but then it was like, 'Oh, my God, when is it going to end?' It snowed forever.”

For a city girl from California, New Hampshire was a whole new world, and it wasn't always easy adjusting to the change. “Back home I had one white friend growing up, and here I'm the only Mexican person on campus—it's really weird,” Elisa says. “At the beginning I did feel isolated, but I also think it probably had a lot to do with myself because it was all so new and I didn't know how to react. This semester, I came back with a whole new outlook that I'm going to go out of my way to talk to people, and that's helped. I've been going out a lot more and been more open to new things. But in the very beginning it was really hard. I would call my mom and cry. I feel this experience will make me a stronger person, though. In my first semester here I grew more than I ever have—my outlook on my education, people, myself—I became more mature.”

The oldest of five children, Elisa grew up surrounded by business—her mother, Nestoria, has a bachelor's degree in business, and her father, Juan, owns two companies. At a young age, Elisa went to work with Juan, did some accounting, and even managed his store. Majoring in Business Administration felt like second nature.

“From my parents I learned that you can have a career but still be there for your family. Both my parents know how to juggle that,” Elisa says. “My dad's a hard worker, but his family always comes first. That's why I want to work for myself. I want to have the flexibility to be with my family. I don't want to be a parent who's always traveling. I've seen it and I just don't want that lifestyle. I want to go into fashion and own my own shop.

“At Colby-Sawyer we do a lot of group work in classes; at my other school you were just on your own. But I've learned here that to be a good businesswoman, you have to know how to talk to people and manage conflict because there are going to be people with different opinions. I have to stay true to my values, but still see other points of view.”

Despite missing her grandmother's cooking, adjusting to the New England weather, and getting used to a smaller campus, Elisa knows she's now at the right college.

“It's still hard,” she says. “I thought about going home, but there's no comparison academically. My Colby-Sawyer professors are more willing to talk to me, they e-mail me, ask how I am—I feel more connected to this school than my last one. The education I'm getting is amazing.”

-Kate Seamans