by Cindy Pena
Transitioning from the once lively city of San Juan, Puerto Rico to a small town and school in Connecticut is not easy. However, the devastating storm that hit Puerto Rico last year left Carolina Riollano Rodriguez no other option but to come to Central Connecticut State University to continue her studies.
Rodriguez, along with about 20 other students, enrolled in CCSU’s eight-week semester that began in November and allowed them to receive nine credits. During winter break, they were able to take online classes that earned them another six credits. In total, they would receive a full course load of 15 credits.
The program was a mix of both online and in-classroom lectures designed to be intense enough for the short period the semester ran.
She said her first semester was good despite all the difficulties going on at her home in Puerto Rico.
“My first semester went well. I really liked all of the classes I took. I did a bio research as well which I also enjoyed,” Rodriguez, a fourth-year student that was studying biology at University of Puerto Rico, said. “The transition from Puerto Rico to Connecticut was very stressful at first because it took a lot of time to find available airline tickets flying out of the island. Plus, my trip got cancelled three times. Once I got on the plane, everything from there on out went pretty well. Personally, it was very easy to adapt to Connecticut and Central Connecticut State University.”
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, killing over 50 people and leaving many without power or a place to call home. Even months after the hurricane, a third of the island still does not have stable electricity, according to Bloomberg.
These dire conditions left many to leave everything they once called home and come to Connecticut.
Connecticut schools received an increase of students leaving the conditions of their previous homes and schools that were destroyed by the hurricane, especially students from Puerto Rico with ties to New Britain and Connecticut.
CCSU’s President Dr. Zulma Toro, a former chancellor and graduate of UPR, prepared for this influx of students and designed this program with other CCSU faculty to ensure that these students can continue their studies while Puerto Rico recovers.
Rodriguez expressed her gratitude for Toro and CCSU’s faculty that helped her and the 20 others with the transition.
“The president was extremely welcoming,” Rodriguez said. “She and the faculty from Central Connecticut State University have been so helpful and accommodating throughout this whole time.”
Rodriguez will finish her spring semester here at CCSU; however she will return to UPR next semester to finish her last year of studies. She is expected to graduate in May 2019.
While she is here for her last semester, she said she just hopes to make the most of her CCSU experience.
“I look forward to learning as much as I can from my classes, my peers and having new experiences,” Rodriguez said.