When Andrea Patino Galindo graduated from high school in Mexico, she didn’t know what she wanted to study in college – but she knew she wanted to learn English.
So she came north to work as an au pair, caring for three children in Sudbury. The town had few Spanish speakers, so she taught herself English by reading romance novels, watching TV shows with Spanish subtitles and asking the children to correct her mistakes. She also took an accounting class at MassBay Community College in Framingham. 
“I immersed myself in American culture and read a lot of books,” she says.
After two years, Patino Galindo returned home to Mexico and then applied to Middlesex Community College in Bedford, where she began studying business administration. 
Her first-semester grades were excellent, so her advisor recommended that she meet with History Prof. David Kalivas, head of the college’s Commonwealth Honors Program. He explained the program’s benefits, including small seminars and rigorous research papers and projects. 
She joined. It was uphill going at first, but the seminars greatly improved her English, both written and spoken. After earning her associate degree at Middlesex, she transferred to UMass Lowell. 
It was a smooth transition. Patino Galindo says the Honors Program at Middlesex helped prepare her for rigorous honors classes at UMass Lowell, where she’s now a business administration major with a concentration in finance. It also helped her win an international student scholarship.
“I’ve been very lucky,” she says. “The Honors Program made me understand what I was capable of, stop doubting myself and realize what I could do. I was ready.”
Here, she’s greatly enjoyed honors classes in business ethics and organizational behavior, as well as a winter term course on nonprofit management that took her and a dozen other students to Houston, where they worked with All Hands and Hearts to build homes for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
“These are the classes I love taking – classes that challenge your thinking, that make you have these insightful conversations,” she says. “You come to college to interact with other students. There’s a lot of talent and intelligence, and if you can share that, everyone gets a piece of it.”
She misses her family, and her family misses her. So Patino Galindo returns home every summer and applies her accounting know-how as a bookkeeper for father, an engineer who builds homes. She also teaches swimming at a summer camp and bakes and sells custom cakes for special occasions.
She doesn’t know where she will end up after graduation, but she’s applying for an internship at Fidelity and hopes to work in corporate finance.
“I love math and numbers,” she says. “There’s a lot of opportunity there.”