When polled, most SUNY Broome students admit that the thing that they like least about being a student at SUNY Broome is walking on campus in the rainy, cold Binghamton weather. For Carlos Contreras, a native of Mexicali, Mexico, whose summer temperatures easily scorch to well over 110 degrees, the climate at SUNY Broome is just right.
Even with an over 2,500 mile distance from their home in Mexicali, Binghamton, NY had always been on the radar of the Contreras family. Contreras’ father was employed by the Mexicali branch of Universal Instruments, and often traveled to the Conklin, NY offices for meetings and training sessions. After years of trying to persuade Contreras to accept a transfer, he brought along his family on two Binghamton trips, one in the summer and one in the winter, to expose them to the area, to sample the delicacy of spiedies, and to test out if they would be open to moving to the United States.
“Universal Instruments had been asking my dad to come to the United States for years, but my parents thought that my brother and I were too young to be uprooted from our life in Mexicali. They wanted our Spanish to be solidified and also wanted us to grow up near our family. Once we were older, my parents were more open to the idea of moving to New York,” explained Contreras.
Carlos spoke very little English when he arrived in Broome County seven years ago, but he acclimated quickly. “I went to Susquehanna Valley High School and it was just like going to a high school from the movies. It felt like the typical American school. Everyone was very welcoming.”
Like many of his fellow Susquehanna Valley High School classmates, Contreras decided to continue his studies at SUNY Broome, as opposed to returning to Mexico to study. After spending a few semesters as an engineering science student, Contreras realized that his love for numbers could be applied to another academic discipline. “I realized that engineering was not for me. You have to really love engineering and I didn’t. I read the course descriptions under business administration and realized that business was much more interesting to me,” said Contreras.
One of the first things that Carlos did as a new SUNY Broome student was to join the International Students Organization (ISO). “I have the best of both worlds. I am from Mexico, but have been living in Broome County for several years, so I am just a bit more established in the area and can help fellow international students with some of the basics, like where to shop, where to find the post office, etc,” explained Contreras.
The International Students Organization is not just reserved for SUNY Broome’s international student population. To the contrary, the ISO welcomes anyone who is interested in learning about different cultures and developing friendships with students from around the world. Currently, members of the ISO represent countries from across the globe including Algeria, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, and Russia.
“I would recommend the ISO to anyone. Especially to students who love to travel, but haven’t been able to due to Covid. The next best thing to traveling is to befriend people from around the world and learn about their cultures directly from them. My brother, Issac, is a first semester student at SUNY Broome and I told him that joining the ISO was a requirement. He did and now he is the Vice President of the club!”
Contreras appreciates how difficult it is to learn the English language while simultaneously trying to thrive as a student. “One great perk of the International Students Organization is that it is a safe and supportive place for students to practice their English. We never judge or tease and are willing to help fellow students develop their pronunciation and learn American jargon. Non-international students can really be a help with this. It is a great reason for natural English speakers to join the association,” said Contreras.
Understanding that many international students were unable to travel home during the Thanksgiving break, Carlos, Issac, and their parents invited some students to join them at their home in Conklin, NY for their seventh Thanksgiving in the United States. “This technically isn’t even our holiday, but my mom loves it! Our friend Eldrick from Indonesia joined us for his first Thanksgiving. It was a great day for everyone.”
When Carlos is not in class or participating in an ISO activity, he is tutoring SUNY Broome students in his native language of Spanish and working for Public Safety at the Welcome Desk in the Darwin R. Wales Center.
Contreras will be transferring to Buffalo University next semester to continue his studies in economics and business administration. “I picked Buffalo University primarily because the transfer process was just so smooth. Their transfer team was very prompt and polite when answering my questions and made sure that my credits would transfer over seamlessly,” said Contreras.
As Carlos Contreras prepares to embark on the next part of his academic career, he is making sure to truly reflect on his time at SUNY Broome.“I keep telling my brother to make sure that he doesn’t miss out on the opportunity to be appreciative of our time as students at SUNY Broome. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in classes and activities that we miss acknowledging the moments that need appreciation. I loved my time at SUNY Broome and am thankful for all the opportunities that I received here.”