"Doing Good. Miss You. Bye."
Jocelyn was so busy discovering the treasures in a family’s private art collection in Madrid, savoring three-hour meals like the locals, and getting to know her Global Gateway group that she barely had time to dash off quick texts to her family back home.
That wasn’t always the case.
“I was very shy and kept very much to myself,” she says of her first semester. “I wasn’t open to experiences or new ideas or clubs.”
Before applying to the Global Gateway Program at a friend’s suggestion, she politely declined her roommates’ invitations to go out and explore Boston, choosing to commute home to Worcester, Massachusetts, every weekend.
But her CAS 101 professor saw her potential and encouraged her to apply, too—even if that meant time away from her young siblings at home.
After being accepted into the program, Jocelyn soon felt at home in another time zone.
“I didn’t know how to start conversations,” she says, “but as soon as we got on the plane and we started traveling, everybody just started talking to everybody. I just remember my social circle growing and growing. We were all in a new experience in a new environment that we were all excited to be in together. We walked out of Madrid knowing each other.
“I was homesick being an hour away,” Jocelyn says of that first semester in Boston. “But then I was on the whole other side of the world, and I would text my dad when I had Wi-Fi and be like, ‘Doing good. Miss you. Bye.’”
At Home at Last in Boston
Her feeling of belonging didn’t fade when the Global Gateway group landed back at Logan Airport. “I was like, ‘Wow, our community is really great,'” she says. “'I should do more on campus and stay connected with them.'”
She’s done just that. Jocelyn jokes that her time in Madrid was filled with Lizzie McGuire moments straight out of the movie. But her sophomore and junior years in Boston have been just as eventful.
She’s now in the Health Careers Club and leading Suffolk’s first-ever campus tours conducted in Spanish as a Trustee Ambassador—in addition to being a McNair Scholar and a Samia Scholar.
Now when her friends invite her out, Jocelyn says, “Let’s do it.” It’s the Global Gateway effect. “It made me more comfortable and more open to other adventures and experiences,” she says.
Reconnecting with Himself
Mohammed Ammar had lost his spark, and he could feel it.
Back home in Saudi Arabia, he was the guy everyone knew in high school—the self-professed “nerd playing soccer.” He began his Suffolk career through the INTO pathway, polishing up his English before officially enrolling as a first-year student. But while his language skills improved, his comfort level with college life didn’t.
“I’m facing a new culture. Everything is different,” he remembers thinking. He became uncharacteristically quiet.
Then a classmate told him about the Global Gateway Program the day before applications were due. Mohammed, a Class of 2022 entrepreneurship major, knew a great opportunity when he heard it and got typing.
After the interview process and pre-departure information sessions, he was on a plane bound for Madrid. And that’s when he discovered that being an international student gave him an advantage: Mohammed was used to long-haul flights to and from his home in the Middle East.
Unlike many in his group—some of whom were on their first flight ever—he didn’t feel jet lagged upon landing in Spain. So, he had the energy to research Madrid’s nightlife and suggest going out on the town with a few people.
When he went down to the hotel lobby at midnight, he found almost 30 people waiting for him, asking if he was Mohammed and excited to join him. After their big night out, he and his new friends talked long into the early morning hours.
“The second day,” he says, “everyone knew my name.” And they got to know the real Mohammed—the lively guy who’d captained his high school soccer team back home.
“I’m a shy person,” he says, “but whenever I feel comfortable, I’ll be confident.”
He can’t pinpoint the precise moment he became such good friends with his roommate and other peers, but he knows how meaningful their connection is.
“I was not imagining that someone can build a friendship really, really fast like this,” he says. “I felt that I knew those people for like seven years, not seven days. We became kind of a family.”
Expanding His Comfort Zone
It’s a family that’s just as strong in Boston. “So whenever I go to a class, there's someone from Madrid,” he says.
Mohammed knows firsthand what it’s like to find your footing in a new country in a new school. Now, in addition to being a math tutor, he’s a teaching assistant for the INTO Program. “I want to give back because it really gave me a lot,” he says. Working with international students, he’s able to help them overcome the same kinds of transition challenges he once faced. He also manages the finances of the Suffolk Football Club, the University’s fast-growing intramural soccer team that’s popular with international and domestic students alike.
And if there’s one piece of advice he hopes every first-year student he meets takes to heart, it’s that they apply to Global Gateway too.
“After Madrid, my life changed,” he says. “Suffolk now is my comfort zone.”
An International Bond
By the time his first spring break at Suffolk rolled around, Matthew Lewis had already created a Common Application account.
But he never got around to transferring, thanks to Global Gateway. Matthew, Class of 2022, had already visited France and Scotland. When he heard he could go to Madrid with Suffolk, “I was like, ‘Come on, I have to go on that trip,'” he says. “And I was so super-fortunate to get into that program.”
Meanwhile, Nicolas Malm had found a peer group among his cross country and track teammates and roommates. Because he’d traveled to Costa Rica in high school, though, he knew there was a whole world waiting for him. When he heard about Global Gateway at orientation, he turned to his mother and announced, “Mom, I’m applying for this. It sounds too good to be true.”
Nicolas’s spring break in Spain lived up to his high expectations, though, as did the new friends he experienced it with—including Matthew.
“Everyone who was there wanted to learn about a new country,” Nicolas, Class of 2022, says. “A lot of people can go their whole lives without traveling, so the fact that we had this opportunity at this age, you could tell people jumped on it. It was a very ambitious, kind, great group of people who were just fascinated with traveling and exploring.”
More of Madrid
Matthew, a politics, philosophy, and economics major, and Nicolas, a broadcast journalism major, became part of a quartet of fast friends while taking in Madrid’s modern architecture, Toledo’s cathedral, and Segovia’s aqueduct. And for these four, Global Gateway paved their way to a semester at Suffolk Madrid.
“Suffolk’s having a campus in Madrid made it a lot easier to study abroad,” Matthew says. “Everything was Suffolk credits, and I could take honors classes.”
Suffolk Madrid is much smaller than Suffolk Boston, reminding Matthew of his high school days in Lakeville, Massachusetts. “That really allows you to meet your professors and become friendly with them in a way that Suffolk allows more than other schools. I talk to my philosophy professor on WhatsApp all the time.”
Nicolas adds, “I studied abroad for a semester because of Global Gateway. It really opened up this new world to me and made me want to make the most of my college experience. I had two months at Suffolk Madrid, and it really means something.”
While the global pandemic cut their semester abroad short, these two have already gained so much from their time in Spain. Nicolas and Matthew are roommates back in Boston, along with their two friends they went to Madrid with.
“It just made me the type of person who wants to try new things. I can now see things on a more global scale,” Nicolas says. “And it really gave me a lot of these relationships I know I’m going to take with me far after college.”
As for Matthew, he forgot the login credentials to his Common App account long ago. After Global Gateway, he’s been happy right where he is.
Jocelyn De Paz has a definite sense of where she wants to go in life after graduation. Medical school, opening a free clinic for women in Guatemala, and working with UN Women are all part of her plan.
“Long story short,” she says. “I want to change the world.”
Seeing the world as a first-year student certainly changed her. Yet, for Jocelyn, one thing has remained constant since her Global Gateway experience: her special connection to the Spanish capital, the city that sparked her deeper connection to Suffolk.
“Many of us who are graduating in the Class of 2022 have decided that we want to go back to Madrid as our graduation gifts to each other and explore more,” she says.
And then, like the generations of Suffolk students who graduated before her, Jocelyn will continue exploring her place in the world.
A world of opportunities she got her first taste of in her very first year.