Vladimir Saldana learned a lot about himself—and the world—during a semester spent studying at the University of Barcelona. He discovered how much he loves traveling. He realized he makes friends easily and can adapt to new situations quickly. 
“It was an incredible experience,” says Saldana, a graduate of the Manning School of Business. “I recommend every student study abroad.”
For Saldana, who pursued a dual concentration in finance and management and minoring in Spanish, the experience of studying overseas has helped expand his view of global business and cultures. 
A native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Saldana moved to Lowell when he was 10. He spoke no English when he arrived, but learned fast, moving into mainstream classes within eight months. He enrolled at Greater Lowell Technical High School because he wanted to learn to fix cars. However, after realizing the smell of motor oil made him sick, he switched to the office technology program and found his passion. He went on to Middlesex Community College, earning an associate’s degree in business administration. 
Originally, Saldana wanted to go to college in Boston, but UMass Lowell made sense for him financially. The decision has worked out better than he expected.
“I love it here. There are amazing opportunities,” he says. “Why would I want to go anywhere else?”
Saldana assumed leadership roles on campus. He became a resident adviser in the fall of 2012 and was the academic success chair of the organization Men Achieving Leadership, Excellence and Success (M.A.L.E.S.). He gained professional experience through an internship with the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, an initiative to foster entrepreneurship and leadership in the region, and worked part-time at the Northern Massachusetts Telephone Workers Community Credit Union for four years.
In October 2012, he was in the spotlight as one of two students chosen to ask a question at the nationally televised U.S. Senate debate held at the Tsongas Center. The experience was thrilling, but nerve-wracking, he says.
“This University gave me the opportunity to be on a national stage,” he says. “It was intense.” 
He is considering a career that would combine his business and leadership skills with his desire to serve the community. As the first person in his family to attend college, he feels the weight of responsibility to succeed. 
“My family is counting on me,” he says.