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Sophomore Kate Larroder finds her home away from home at Columbia College Chicago

On the plane to Chicago from the Philippines, Kate Larroder reflected on her decision to leave her immediate family and come to attend Columbia College Chicago in the fall of 2022 to study communication. After finding herself uncertain of her ambition, she let her motives fuel her perseverance.

“I was very nervous, and contemplating, ‘Am I making the right decision?’ ‘Am I going to be able to succeed?’” Larroder said. “But [then I thought], I just have to power through it; I want to overcome everything…The U.S. is called the land of opportunities, so I [thought], I’m in the land of opportunity.”

Larroder’s interest in the field of communication stems from practicing journalism in school for over half of her life in the Philippines. At 8 years old, she joined a team with her school that competed in the National Schools Press Conference. She competed for five years individually in events such as feature and news writing, and four years on a radio and TV broadcasting team.

When it became time to apply to college, Larroder applied to five schools in the Philippines, and after some encouragement from her cousin, applied to 15 schools in the U.S. Fearing the reaction of her parents, she didn’t tell them she applied to schools outside of the country. She was relieved to find their support when she told them about her acceptances.

“I’m very lucky with [my] family, because they’re very proud of what I do,” she said. “Of course they were scared to let me go, but they were more supportive.” Larroder has extended family in Chicago to support her through her studies as she stays committed to her education. She maintains her journalism education as she writes for The Columbia Chronicle and takes journalism courses. 

Larroder learned English in school growing up and practiced it regularly through her journalism experience. However, she said writing hard news in English has taken some extra practice, as she’s more comfortable writing the style in Filipino. She also noted a “stark difference” in campus funding for newspapers, between her school in the Philippines and Columbia, as well as how it affected the paper’s workflow.

“It was hard for me to encourage staff members to write, because they’re not getting paid; they just do it for public service. Here, we’re all getting paid,” she said.

Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin, Journalism Professor at Columbia College, has been Larroder’s teacher for almost two semesters now, and has noticed the unique perspective she brings to the classroom. 

“She just brought this depth of knowledge and understanding about the importance of journalism into democracy,” she said. “[She] brought experience with publications and approaches to the importance of news organizations to a democracy that were unfamiliar to some of the other students here.”

Alongside her education, Larroder works at the college’s Career Center, a resource located in the Student Center for students to receive an array of employment assistance. She works specifically with international students, like herself, that need extra assistance with finding work with their F1 Visas, DACA and undocumented status. 

Clare Lake, director of International Student and Scholar Services at the college, finds it important that students use their own experiences to bond with and help others in similar situations.

“They help form a community with those who are coming from the same kind of background,” Lake said. “But then they have the shared experience of being here as internationals; they can provide each other support.” 

Larroder said she struggled for the first year of school to gain friends, due to the different schedule students ran on in contrast to the Philippines.

“I didn’t know that students just go to classes, listen and then leave right after,” she said. “In the Philippines, there’s a section system, so you take the same classes with the same people, so you basically know them. So I kind of struggled with that at first.” 

After the adjustment period, Larroder said she began to find her place at Columbia by joining organizations and her job at the Career Center. Larroder described her job as “fulfilling,” as she shares her knowledge of adjusting and working as a foreign student on a visa with others in similar situations. She also finds it important to have such resources available to not only help international students get accustomed to Chicago, but find their community at Columbia.

“I think that Columbia is very welcoming to international students, [with] all these resources that they have for international students,” she said. “I’m grateful to have them.”

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