Calling a new place home isn’t easy. But Salvadoran graduate student Diana Ramirez Segovia is acclimating to life at North Carolina State University despite the academic and cultural challenges faced by many international students.

Pursue a master’s degree in plant pathology through the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology enables Ramirez Segovia to contribute to the advancement of agricultural practices and life sciences in North Carolina while preparing her to bring her knowledge back to El Salvador.

“Agriculture used to be the main economic engine of my country, but that has changed over time,” she says. “I realized that I needed additional training to support our farmers and improve food security.”

Ramirez Segovia chose CALS because of the college’s emphasis on education and extension—which connects the academic community to stakeholders through problem solving—and because the college’s agricultural research integrates the industry, faculty and students with critical thinking in the life sciences.

“The opportunities I have as a graduate student in plant pathology and all that I learn from my professors are some of the things I love most about being part of CALS.”

Ramirez Segovia appreciates the college’s dedication to graduate student success by providing various educational opportunities, such as lectures, scholarships, student associations, and access to state-of-the-art laboratory technology.

“The opportunities I have as a graduate student in plant pathology and all that I learn from my professors are some of the things I enjoy most about being part of CALS. We have many resources to help us develop our skills and think and do extraordinary things through internships, seminars and research with our mentors. We also learn from other students who are advanced in their careers and who can support us.

Ramirez Segovia implements corn germination tests in the corn pathology laboratory.

Ramirez Segovia’s cultural roots are integral to his identity, and finding like-minded people to connect with has been essential to his personal and academic success.

One of the ways she connects with the local Latinx community is through NC State Association of Latin American Students (LASA), through which she participated in activities on campus.

“I believe that being involved in activities not only allows you to learn about other points of view, but also to feel part of a community,” she says. “Connection is important because being abroad and away from family and friends can affect you if you don’t have a support system.”

Ramirez Segovia is exploring local volunteer opportunities in Raleigh to expand this system. “I discovered that some organizations, like Centro Hispanowork to support Hispanics and enable people in the community to volunteer.

Still, Ramirez Segovia faced challenges adapting to a new culture and a new language.

“The language barrier was one of my biggest concerns when I arrived. It made me insecure about my performance in class.

Additionally, finding accommodation and identifying international shops and groceries to help ease the friction of living in a new city took some ingenuity.

But finding housing and groceries weren’t her only challenges. Ramirez Segovia realized that she also had to adapt to cultural differences within academia. “The close relationship students can develop with professors and advisors was a new fit.”

Since starting her program, she has worked hard to develop relationships with her professors, which has enhanced her knowledge of plant pathology. She also used CALS Consulting Resources and NC State International Service Office to help address his educational and personal concerns.

“I understand that achieving goals always brings challenges and overcoming them helps us grow.”

Ramirez Segovia appreciates the diversity and inclusiveness among CALS students and faculty, noting that faculty actively encourage participation from all members, regardless of background.

“We are all part of the same community.”