Go Hard or Go Home — My Arrival Story

I would like to share a piece of advice to anyone reading this blog. I know I am not your friend (I can be though if you leave a comment!) or your parent but if I can help or motive somebody out there it will make me happy.

I was just a kid of 18 years old when I decided to come to some wrestling tournaments in Arizona (remember, I’m from Mexico). The infrastructure behind the tournaments was impressive and right away I really wanted to stay and compete here in U.S. I only could participate in one tournament because they were so expensive. But I won! I won the only tournament that I could afford (thank you to my parents!). In that tournament I caught one coach’s attention (Fernando).


I noticed he was always around to see my matches, so I introduced myself and we exchanged e-mails to keep in touch. “He is a great guy” I thought. After some months of emailing each other, Fernando put in front of me the opportunity that was going to change my life. He asked if I would like to come to U.S. to finish high school and learn English. There are not words enough to describe the feelings that came over me. I said yes right away! The only problem I could foresee was that I did not have any prior or even basic knowledge of the English language. The only two words I knew were “bathroom” and “food” and I think I could not pronounce them correct!

One of the hardest days in my life was leaving my home country. I had to give up friends, family, culture, food, my living style, basically everything I had and I knew for this one single shot of success. It was going to be way more difficult than just trying to “learn a little English and finish high school” as Fernando inferred.

carlos family

I was under a lot of pressure. In one year I had to get a scholarship, finish high school, and learn more than basic English or I would have to go back to Mexico and leave my wrestling team. Fernando helped me do all the paper work required to get in high school. He had faith in me.

Everyone in the school told me that to graduate from high school, for someone in zero level English, was going to take a minimum of 2 years of special classes. Even my consul said to me, “Carlos, I am sorry to tell you this but finishing high school in one year is not something achievable.” The only thought that came to my mind after everybody told me that what I wanted was impossible was, “No body will tell me what I can or I can’t do, I am graduating!!”

I still remember the first day of classes; it was cloudy, wet and very cold. The school placed me in an English program for level zero English students. I can think of nothing that has challenged me more than the first two months of high school. I could not understand anything in classes or in regular basic situations. I used to get very frustrated in the two regular classes I was taking – Pre-calculus and U.S. History – classes that even for English speakers are complicated. I pushed my self every single day for the next six months. Then suddenly I could understand 60 percent of the whole class. For me that was what I needed to push myself even farther. The next week I went to the principle to tell her that I was dropping the special classes to become a regular student. Regular classes were awful and hard and I wasn’t able to communicate with any professor yet. But finally, when those 12 months were over, somehow, I overcame every single obstacle. I passed all the classes; I passed the state test; I finished the 3 credits I was behind; I got a scholarship; and I graduated. It was one of my happiest days in my life.

This is just a short part of what I have been through. I’m writing this because I would like to reach as many students as I can to tell them that any obstacle, any hard class, any problem can be solved if you want it bad enough. I know Embry-Riddle is not an easy college but it is one of the best. I encourage you to try as hard as you can and eventually you will overcome what is stopping you. If I could graduate from high school without any English knowledge, you can get done whatever you want.

—As my old coach from Mexico always told me ” Go hard or go home.”  That’s the best I can translate it.

Have an awesome semester!

carlos family