Meet Your Fellow International Anteater

The International Center is committed to facilitating an enriching college experience for the international community at UC Irvine. Meet Your Fellow Anteater is an opportunity for us to connect international students by highlighting the involvements, accomplishments, and experiences of the outstanding students in our community. Don't be afraid to say "hi" when you see your fellow anteater around campus. 


Gabriela Santos

Year: 3rd Year PhD student
Major: Law
Home Country: El Salvador (studying in Chile)
Native Language: Spanish

1. What is your favorite American food/snack?

I definitely have a sweet tooth (oops!) I like peanut butter and jelly sandwich and jelly beans.

2. If you could have a conversation with one person (fictional, living, deceased) who would it be and why?

I have two favorite Salvadoran people that I’d really like to have a conversation with (Which are Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero –who was assassinated for saying the truth and denounce injustices- and Prudencia Ayala –the first woman to try to run as president in my country, back in 1930-) Buuut! Since I’m in the US, I have to say that I’d like to meet Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was a social activist, suffragist that lead a women’s rights movement to guarantee voting rights for women and beyond… a brave one!

3. What are three words you would use to describe yourself and why?

A tough question...hehe. Maybe:
1. Friendly. I think I’m a person that is easy to get along with.
2. Sympathetic. I try to be kind with anyone I get the chance to know or help whenever I can.
3. Impatient. I’m really impatient… I hate everything that involves waiting, making lines, getting stuck in traffic (actually, who doesn’t) and so on. I’m becoming more relaxed over the years but sometimes… I just can’t help it.

4. Why did you choose to come to UCI for college?

I’m studying a PhD and I had to do a research internship, so I chose UCI because of all the great academics that are here. My research area is Election Law and one of the most prominent professors and experts in this area is here at UCI, so I definitely wanted to come here. Specifically, I came to the Center for the Study of Democracy and I’ve got the opportunity to meet other great professors, so it has been a really enriching experience.

5. Who or what inspires/motivates you in life/in school? Is there a specific quote or phrase that you live by?

My mom and it might sound a bit dreamy/cliché but I have to say that my country as well. There are pretty bad stuffs going on back in El Salvador and I think most of us (Salvadorans) have this kind of goal or desire to try to make at least a small-good impact in El Salvador through what you do or how you do it. I really want to come back to my country so that keeps me motivated. /I like the phrase “Be the best version of yourself”

6. What are some similarities and differences that you’ve noticed between your home country and the U.S.?

El Salvador is a country that has been really influenced by the US, so there are some similarities, but living here in Irvine I think the biggest difference is the safety (And I have to emphasize that Irvine is a really safe-quiet city!). Another thing that was kind of shocking for me is that beaches “close” at some point (10:00 pm!) …That definitely doesn’t happen in my country. (Silly Bonus: I’ll never get used to use degrees Fahrenheit!)

7. What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? What advice do you have for other international students currently adjusting to life in the United States?

I’m kind of used to live far away from home because I’ve been living abroad for more than 3 years now, but I think that living in a country with a different language than yours is always a challenge…and the only way to improve is to speak! So if you feel shy to put in to practice what you know, just…don’t! You have to know that there are ALWAYS other people that are struggling with the same things that you are, so, you’re not alone in this learning process. ☺ May be my best advice is to take advantage of what life offers to you and be grateful for that. We’re privileged just by the fact of living abroad, meeting great new people and learning, so don’t focus on what you miss, but the new experiences you can have, what new things you can try, what new challenges, what things you thought you’d never do you can do… it can get really exciting ;) Be open minded and try to get rid of all prejudices.

8. What is your favorite experience at UCI and/or the U.S. so far?

My favorite (academic) experience at UCI is to actually meet the people we read… We keep reading papers/books from amazing people and it’s great to actually meet them and put a face into that person that you’re constantly reading his or her thoughts and it’s even greater when you have a chance to interact. My favorite (non-academic) experience –besides meeting great people from all over the world- is visiting great places, mostly national parks ☺ Such beautiful landscapes!

9. As an international student, what have you learned (or are learning) that has made a difference in your life?

Interacting with so many people from different countries definitely broadens your vision of the world, your perspective changes and you see the world I think in a wider colorful version!


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