Starting a new school as a freshman can be tough. Now, imagine beginning this journey in another country, where you must learn a whole new language.
This is the challenge that Aylen Hubeaut, a first-year architectural engineer student and tennis player, has decided to take on at Florida A&M University.
Hubeaut is a native of Santa Fe, Argentina, with plans to extend her U.S. Visa to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree.
Luis Nani, a childhood friend, and second-year physical therapy student, urged her to make the transition to the U.S. and become a fellow Rattler.
“I met her in Argentina when we were 13 and 15 years old. I was the first one to come to FAMU and sort of recruited Aylen because I too was recruited by a fellow Argentinian. Last semester she was very confused being in a new country, but her English has improved significantly being that she didn’t know it originally. She has so many friends now and she is adjusting more independently,” said Nani.
Hubeaut was honored with an athletic scholarship to the tennis program at FAMU where she has improved enough to have confidence in following in the footsteps of her celebrity role model, Serena Williams.
“FAMU allowed me to do what I always wanted which was to explore new options with higher education and gave me a full-ride scholarship for four years. I did not know of any study abroad programs but the process to come here took about a year and a half,” Hubeaut said. “I had to meet the requirements of FAMU, save money, take a test that was designed for international students and get a U.S. Visa essentially,” said Hubeaut.
As persistent as she was in leaving Argentina, she made it a goal to be even more determined in following her dreams of becoming a professional athlete.
Thus far, the FAMU’ women’s tennis team has a 2-8 record with Hubeaut 2-6 in doubles matches.
In Argentina, it is not custom to pursue education and sports careers simultaneously. FAMU gave Hubeaut the opportunity to explore both.
Another friend who can attest to Hubeaut’s skills on the court is fellow teammate Mialiniaina Rakotondrazafy, a third-year political science transfer student at FAMU.
“I have known Aylen since she started here in August 2017. We instantly connected because I am an international student that was born in Madagascar but raised in France and both of us have had people mistake our ethnic identities. On the tennis court, we can leave that behind,” said Rakotondrazafy. “Aylen is very competitive but it is because she wants to better herself and be the best that she can be, so I let her know it is OK not to be perfect.”
The cultural shock was one aspect that Hubeaut had not anticipated. FAMU recorded in fall 2017 that only 348 out of approximately 10,000 students enrolled were Hispanic.
“In Argentina, I had not seen many black Latinos so, obviously when I got here I had to familiarize myself with the term HBCU. Many thought I was a white American but then they would hearmy accent which I believe was more understandable to a lot of the faculty here who guessed I was an international student,” said Hubeaut. “There was even one instance where I was filling out a form and put my ethnicity as Hispanic and had it returned to me because someone assumed I was not putting down the right information.”
Since then, not only has she gotten accustomed to making friends from other cultures but she has noticed people would be kind to her once they got to know who she is.
Her time here has allowed her to recognize the distinct differences between America and Argentina as well.
Hubeaut comes from a middle-class family in Argentina. Although an American would think it is very expensive to live in the United States, Hubeaut claims it is much cheaper.
On the other hand, the bus system has also taught her to monitor how much she leaves campus as it does not run as frequently as the public transportation in Argentina.
“Everything is so early here too. You start work at 7 in the morning time and you finish at 7 in the afternoon. Like who eats at 7 in the afternoon? In Argentina we eat dinner at 10 pm,” Hubeaut said. “The schooling is much easier here though because of the time differences.”
She encourages other students to consider international travel to become well-rounded. Hubeaut claims the best way to begin is to just do it and everything will fall intoplace later.
“I just wanted to follow my dreams, one of which is to visit every continent,” said Hubeaut.