June 01, 2023 | Meghan Gracy

A student from Honduras in jeans and shirt wearing classes standing outside on college campus.

Growing up in Honduras, Horacio Portillo Diaz ’25 spent much of his life nearly 3,000 miles away from Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.

However, Calvin University’s global reach made its way into his community. Class of 2006 alum Luke Joyce was Diaz's biology teacher at Abundant Life Christian School in Gracias, Honduras.

When Diaz prepared to apply to college, Joyce made sure Calvin was on the list. And as Diaz learned more about the university, his excitement grew at the prospect of enrolling as an international student.

“The multiple academic curriculums really appealed to me,” Diaz recalled. “I liked knowing that I could dive deeper into business and graphic design.”

Applying to Calvin

Joyce ended up moving back to Michigan before Diaz would apply, but the teacher reached out to the Honduran seniors through the school’s counselors.

Inspired by the potential of a Calvin education, Diaz tackled the international application process. Once he started, he was pleasantly surprised at its simplicity.

“Applying as an international student at Calvin was way smoother than at other institutions,” he explained. “The CalvinApp was much more straightforward than mailing applications to other colleges or completing separate CommonApps.”

Along with academic information, Calvin’s international application asked what type of financial aid Diaz might need. It wasn’t long before he heard back from Calvin that they could give him the funding he needed to come to Calvin.

Encouraged by his financial aid package—and the YouTube videos of Rangeela he had stumbled upon—Diaz officially enrolled as a Calvin student.

Adjusting to college life

As a freshman, Diaz had to acclimate not only to Calvin’s campus but to U.S. culture and Midwest weather. Through it all, he was excited about his academic path. During his first advising session, he declared himself a graphic design and music double major—although he ultimately switched his second major to business.

“I love having the opportunity to be not only an artist, but a communicator, a research specialist, and market analyzer,” Diaz shared. “I want to be able to create something that reflects what I want the world to look like.”

He also appreciates the Christian perspective professors integrate into classes and the authenticity of the campus-wide community.

At Calvin, faith is not only talked about but also lived. It’s not enforced but encouraged,” Diaz said. “And core classes are really big on service learning and challenging you to think about your community.”

Passion for his classes and appreciation for the Christian community continually remind Diaz that Calvin was the right choice, but it doesn’t pay tuition. Thankfully, his scholarships fill in the gap and make the cost of a Calvin education manageable.

“The mentoring scholarship helped ease some of the financial burden and also allowed me to establish relationships with faculty,” Diaz said. “Now, as an upperclassman, my presence in the School of Business is recognized through the Lawrence D. Bos., Sr. Scholarship.”

Joining the campus community

Diaz is grateful for the scholarships that helped him come and remain at Calvin, but it’s the community that has made his time transformative.

“The community is vibrant. Sure, not everybody sees eye to eye, but everybody is respectful and mindful of each other,” he said. “Calvin is really good at creating community despite all of our differences.”

Diaz has also joined organizations where those differences are celebrated, including the Center for Intercultural Development (CISD) and Rangeela.

“Through CISD, I’ve been given the chance to find people I can fall back on. It also gives me the chance to get to know other international students,” he said.

Reflecting on the path to Calvin

Diaz acknowledges that coming to Calvin as an international student can be intimidating, but the campus community made it easy for him to feel at home.

The CISD opened its doors to him and other international students, giving him a sense of belonging. The Financial Aid Office ensured he could afford to attend Calvin. And the Center for Student Success helped him navigate through academic obstacles and reassured him of majoring in two programs.

“I highly encourage other international students to reach out anywhere,” Diaz said. “I assure you that even before you decide on it, Calvin cares about you already.”

June 1 is the deadline for international students’ enrollment deposits. Those planning on attending Calvin in fall 2023 can submit their deposit through the New Student Portal.

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