International student finds new home in student organizations


The Clarion

Barbara Moreno Gonzalez

Chris Bird, Managing Editor

An international student from Venezuela, Barbara Moreno Gonzalez has only been at Madison College for a little over a year and has already collected a list of titles that would humble most college graduates. Not to mention previous titles and positions, Moreno is currently a student, a Student Ambassador, a Peer Health Educator, the Vice President of Team Development for Student Senate, a member of the Public Relations and Finance committee on Student Senate, Vice President of the Wisconsin Regional team of Phi Theta Kappa, and Director of Communications for the Wisconsin Regional Team of Phi Theta Kappa. All while taking on all the unofficial duties that she has as a sister and independent adult in the world today. 

“I really didn’t know many people around here in Wisconsin, because I moved from Venezuela about a year and a littlago.” 

Moreno had to apply for college as an international student, a process that is intimidating for most submitting applications locally, with the added difficulties of becoming used to a new school system, a new environment, and making sure her family was cared for. 

“I would say that, for me, it was the whole college application process was completely insane for me. It was stressful. And even more under the chaotic situation that Venezuela is going through. So I moved here with my sisters, my parents are in Venezuela, and I’m the oldest. So it’s been quite challenging just taking on that, you know, father, mother position, sister position. I had to support with food, the laundry, you know …” 

“The first step was getting a job. I wanted to start my career as an independent woman, that could do what she had to do. You know, I didn’t want my parents to get that much worried with everything that we have going on here in Wisconsin.” 

Finding herself in a new place with few connections, Moreno didn’t have much guidance on where to start or how to get a job at the college, but she found a way anyhow. 

“I just went every single day to ask at the front desk, you know, ‘oh, is there any jobs, is there any jobs?’ And eventually they got tired of me just going there every day and they said ‘oh let’s give her a try, why not?’” 

Moreno started working at Madison College as a Student Help worker, assisting students with homework and navigating college life. “It was good, because since I have my Spanish background, and I am bilingual in that sense, I could just help with any students that didn’t know how to speak English or were having trouble speaking English.” 

Wanting to get more involved at the college, Moreno started looking for other ways she could become a part of organizations and activities going on around campus. “I started at first, just volunteering. That was my first step,” she said. 

Eventually, Moreno felt drawn to joining another organization at the College. “I tried student Senate. I didn’t know much about Senate, it was my first time trying something as big as a student senate or student body organization. Like, from high school even, I was not that type of girl.” 

Moreno took her new found position as a Student Senator as an opportunity to try something new. “You know, It was college, new face, new me, so I just wanted to try something different, and I said, you know, let’s give this a try.” 

“I was kind of shy, my first semester, especially at senate. Because I was intimidated by senate, I’m not gonna lie, I was intimidated.” Despite feeling intimidated, Moreno has risen to Vice President of Team Development during her time at Student Senate. 

In her work at the college, Moreno eventually spent some time helping Dr. Julia Haseleu, Head of the Honors Program. Dr. Haseleu asked her to start helping promote the Honors Program through social media and other work. On Dr. Haseleu’s recommendation, Moreno decided to look into the Phi Theta Kappa honors society. 

“There was a volunteer or student fair at the college one time, and I had the time just to go. I decided to stop by to ask one of the girls who was in the PTK stand, and I told her ‘Oh, what’s PTK?’ And it was not even I think two weeks after that, I decided to become a member.” 

She started with PTK by choosing to be an active member of the organization. “I started with a small position, which then turned out big because one of the members left. I was working as communications manager, so I handled social media. Instagram, all that.” 

Moreno had some experience with social media through personal use and her work with the Honors Program, but her responsibilities for PTK were beyond what she had done in the past. “I know how to control that area, but I never did it, like, for an organization … I was handling a lot of stuff, I would say.” 

“I made more connections, I decided to attend conferences when it was possible to go to conferences.” 

Through attending one of these conferences, Moreno was able to meet the team that was running the Wisconsin branch of PTK and heard that they were looking for someone to serve as communications director. 

“One thing led to another, and now I am working as Vice President and Communications Director of the Wisconsin region in PTK.” 

When considering what led her to becoming involved with so many organizations, Moreno said that she tries to stay involved and has always felt compelled to volunteer and help when she can.  

“I’m going for nursingeventually, I want to transfer for nursing. For meit’s always been helping people or, you know, just guiding people in a good direction. Motivating people to do things. And that’s how I’ve been doing things.” 

Moreno has even taken on a new job this semester as a Peer Health Educator working with Denise Hollin at The Cupboard Student Food Pantry within Madison College. While many other responsibilities of hers are moving to online and virtual environments, Moreno still shows up in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays to distribute food and organize things for The Cupboard. 

Looking back on her experiences, Moreno stated that networking has been “a must, it helps so much. It has helped me with letters of recommendation, with work positions, so it’s been good that I just put myself out there to try all of this different stuff. But, it was definitely challenging, I have to say. It still is challenging.” 

Organizing her time, and laying out her responsibilities and meetings was a necessity for Moreno to keep her life running smoothly. “For me that has been a really big thing. Just organizing my time and just dedicating at least a day to set the goals that I have for the week. For me that’s a Sunday. Sunday you have to plan, or the week is gonna be insane.” 

Remembering the beginning of her journey as a college student, Moreno said that it was not only tough to adapt at first for her, but also for her younger sisters. 

“It was really hard at the beginning. We come from a really small school, and its not like here, where you have middle school and high school separate, no no. All there, everything is like, together. You have middle school, high school, elementary all there smashed into a little school.” 

Living through their first Wisconsin winter, and being apart from their parents were added difficulties that the family had to work through. Though they were able to stay with relatives in Wisconsin, it wasn’t the same as having their parents close by. Moreno’s sisters had to navigate starting fresh, going to classes, extracurricular activities in high school, and everything that comes with. 

“It definitely has brough us more closer as sisters, now we are there for each other all the time we no longer fight that much.” 

Moreno joked that they really only argue over things like who folds laundror cleans dishes these days. After having to deal with the complications of applying to college as an international student and the rules that need to be followed to be able to stay in school and keep a job, Moreno is glad to know that her sisters won’t have to face the same roadblocks. 

“My sisters were born in the United States, so they are good with all that high school financial aid process. Everything with that, I would say that they have an advantage.” 

After all of her efforts, Moreno has made great steps in securing her place and providing for her family. “My other sister has got a job as well, and we can pay for our stuff, and our parents don’t worry that much.” 

“It was kind of like a domino effect. I just wanted to let my parents know that we were doing ok, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could take on different things. I just wanted to assume the challenge, and I wanted to use every possible resource that the college has.” 

“I wanted to better myself, and I wanted to challenge myself to be the very best person that I could, and take advantage of every opportunity that I had.”