For Magali Genes, coming to Texas from Asuncion, Paraguay, was a bit of a culture shock.
The 21-year-old, first-generation college student attends Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where she is studying business administration. The school is one of the 11 Historically Black Colleges and Universities supported by The United Methodist Church through its Black College Fund.
"I was not used to people being so friendly and nice, so proper sometimes. I was not used to that. … The food in Texas is like everything … big. (For) like my first two months, I couldn't finish a whole plate by myself at any restaurant. That was just too much food. … Now, I can ask for dessert and everything."
Genes also wasn't used to people attending church regularly. Before coming to the United States, she had never heard of The United Methodist Church.
"Church is part of their life (here), of who they are, so I was not used to that. That was something new to me and actually amazed me," she said.
She said she enjoyed learning about the church and was impressed with its commitment to helping international students pursue higher education. She also stressed the importance of the Black College Fund in supporting minorities.
"As a Latina in our country … we face a lot of poverty, corruption and many other struggles that for Americans might not seem important or … seem big, but they are big to us, because that's all we know. We don't have that experience to just see the world in other eyes, in other perspectives. So, I think (the church) has to keep doing what it's doing, giving back opportunity to people ... to pursue education here, to be able to not only graduate, but achieve something higher."
She said attending Wiley has given her the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, including the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America and across the U.S.
"Just being able to meet them and have a different perspective from what I think the world is, it makes you stretch your mind in a way that you cannot imagine," she said.
Being an active member of the International Club has further broadened her outlook. And while she misses homes, she said her experiences at Wiley have shaped her into the person she is today.
Working in the admissions office at the school has allowed her to see firsthand how United Methodists and their gifts are making a difference.
"Because of the Black College Fund and The United Methodist Church, I see these people making their dreams (come) true."
Genes is doing the same. She plans to attend graduate school and hopes one day to own her own business.
"Wiley has really given me the tools to face the world," she said.
Julie Dwyer, general church content editor, United Methodist Communications
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Black College Fund provides financial support to maintain solid, challenging academic programs; strong faculties; and well-equipped facilities at 11 United Methodist-related historically black colleges and universities. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Black College Fund apportionment at 100 percent.