Puerto Rican student adjusts to Kansas State Culture


K-State prides itself on having a student body that portrays itself as a family; we are a very connected campus, and many students have Kansas roots.

However, for some students, Kansas is far from their home soil. One of these students is Georgina Perez, junior in animal science and industry.

“Coming to Kansas was like entering a whole new world,” Perez said. “I was in shock.”

When she was18, Perez moved from Puerto Rico to Kansas to play volleyball for Cowley Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas.

“The hardest part about moving to Kansas was the language barrier,” Perez said. “At home, we all speak Spanish and only formal English is taught in schools. I’ve never heard English slang before.”

Perez has an older sister, Isabelle, who works for Kimberly Clark Scientific Products, a global hygiene and paper product company, and an older brother, Daniel, who works as a salesman for fashion designer Marc Jacobs. Though Perez had her siblings’ experiences to learn from, she said she didn’t anticipate Kansas to be such a big change.

Kansas and Puerto Rico differ in more ways than just language. Puerto Rico is warm and humid almost all year; it never snows, sleets, or ices, unlike Kansas. The culture and mannerisms of people are also different.

“During my first year at Cowley, I was always worried that I came off as being a rude person,” Perez said. “Even today, I sometimes still struggle with American manners and how people here will react to the things I say or do.”

When Perez first came to Kansas, she said she was confused by American greetings, such as an introductory handshake. In Spanish culture, it is customary to kiss both cheeks when greeting someone.

Bridget Paulk, junior in biological systems engineering, is Perez’s former teammate and current roommate. She said she fondly remembers the two years the girls spent at Cowley together.

“It was pretty clear from the first day we moved into our dorm room together that Georgie and I were opposites,” Paulk said.It took us a little while to get adjusted to each other, but we became great teammates and even better friends. I could tell she struggled a little bit in finding common ground with everyone else, but we had volleyball and that proved to be enough.”

Two years and an associate’s degree later, Perez opted to transfer to K-State for its highly ranked veterinary school.

“My heart melts for animals,” Perez said. “Animals are what I love and being a vet has always been my goal in life.”

Perez is currently preparing to apply to veterinary school in June, and said she dreams of being a vet for exotic animals. Her favorite animals are big cats ranging from lions to ocelots. However, Perez said she plans on becoming a vet for domestic household pets and has put some thought into one day returning to Puerto Rico to work.

Perez said a typical day for her is busy, to say the least. Most of her days start at 8 a.m. when she goes to class. After four classes, Perez either goes to the library to study or to her job at K-State’s pathobiology lab. At the lab, she is responsible for testing different bacteria and observing animals such as pigs and cattle.

“I’m lucky to have a job that works well with my major,” Perez said.My boss is very understanding when it comes to my rule that school comes first. I don’t want anything to get in the way of my acceptance into veterinary school.”

Perez’s responsibilities at work also include taking DNA samples for the blood and feces of different farm animals. Kelli Barge, junior in animal sciences and industry, is one of Perez’s co-workers.

“Georgina and I always have a great time at work,” Barge said. “We find a way to make testing samples over and over again a fun time.”

After work, Perez often tries to fit in a casual game of volleyball, or a much-needed nap.

“I miss playing volleyball so I try to fit it in whenever I can, Perez said. “But sometimes after classes like biochemistry, my mind and body just need to rest.”

Although she has quite a few more years left of school, Perez said she is focusing on her long-term goal.

“My hard work will pay off for my future,” she said, “I get overwhelmed sometimes, but I try to constantly remind myself that the stress I feel now will one day be rewarded by being addressed as ‘Dr. Perez.’”