Skip to main content

June 4, 2017

Student Cata Wedman shares her list

When Cata Wedman was ready for college, she left her native Costa Rica and headed to Kansas. As the child of a Costa Rican mother and an American father, she has citizenship in both countries.

 It was through a simple Google search of “Colleges in Kansas” that she discovered Johnson County Community College, and here are the reasons she said she’s glad she did.

1. Friendly, helpful staff

“When I first emailed Johnson County Community College, saying I was interested, I got a fast response, and I couldn’t believe how friendly everyone was.”

2. The facilities

“When I first saw the College, I thought it was a shopping mall. Colleges in Costa Rica are not like this at all. They don’t have the money for all that’s offered here. Even the fountains were beautiful.”

3. Making friends

“In my public speaking class, I met a guy from Venezuela, and he told me about the International Club … Meeting all those people from different countries taught me so much more than books ever could. Before, I heard news about other countries, and it didn’t seem relatable to me. Now I know people from these countries – and they’re just like me – and it makes it real.”

4. Taking risks

Wedman received a full-ride scholarship to study abroad in Xi’an, China through JCCC. “I want to be a Spanish professor, so I went to the Study Abroad office to see about studying in Spain. I found out it was so expensive; it just seemed so much. Then (the coordinator) said, ‘We do have this program for China where expenses are paid.’ I had no plans at all to go to China, but I’m also interested in studying International Relations, so I said, ‘Why not?’

5. Maturing and coping

Wedman knew no Chinese, so her first few weeks in the program were disorienting and discouraging. She didn’t realize just how little English would be spoken. “The first couple of weeks, I cried.” She also missed her friends, her boyfriend and JCCC. But she hung in there for the full five months of the program. “By the end, I was understanding Chinese. I felt so proud of myself for how much I learned.”

6. Working on campus

Before her trip to China, Wedman worked as a Spanish tutor in the Language Resource Center. After her trip, she got a job as an ambassador at the Welcome Center, giving tours to prospective students. “I like the work…and I also made friends with the people I work with, so it makes it more fun.”

7. Developing connections with professors.

Her Honors contracts allowed Wedman to work one-on-one with professors in topics she wanted to know more about. She went to the Honors Program office herself and asked how to get involved. “I knew about Honors from my friends in International Club, so I just walked in and said, ‘How do I do this?’ Most people don’t realize you don’t have be a genius to be in Honors.”

8. Giving back to the community

Wedman graduates with civic honors, meaning she contributed 75 volunteer hours. She worked in a Habitat ReStore, taught English to kindergarteners while she was in China, and watched children at Oak Park Library while their parents took English language classes. “All the kids speak either Chinese or Spanish, so I could speak to everyone,” she said, smiling.

Wedman said JCCC was not easy – “If it was easy, I wouldn’t feel proud of the work I’ve done” – but she made good grades through hard work. Her dream job is to work for UNICEF.