Andres Gonzalez knew that he wanted to come to Lipscomb since he was 4 years old.  Now that dream is a reality.  For Gonzalez, a freshman foreign language major from Baja Calif., Mexico, coming to Lipscomb has always been on his mind. “It has always been a dream of mine to come here,” Gonzalez said

Gonzalez grew up in the The City of Children, which is an orphanage in Ensenada. His parents are the directors of the orphanage, and Gonzalez laughs as he remembers being called “the directors’ son.” He grew up with a love for kids and always enjoyed having someone to play with.

Learning English came naturally for Gonzalez. He began acquiring his second language at age 4, interpreting at six and has continued to translate every summer since for Baja Missions. “I wasn’t trying to learn English; I just watched the Disney Channel a lot,” Gonzalez said. “I enjoyed watching Barney videos and movies like Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, and Grease. Plus, I was around people who spoke English often.”

Ever since Gonzalez can remember, Lipscomb has been sending mission trips to Baja. One of the main reasons he decided to come to LU was because of the people he met on the mission trips, most of which he said came from the Tennessee area. Friends he used to see only once a year are suddenly fellow classmates whom he bumps into on his way to class. 

Jamie Pendergrass, a junior nursing major from Huntsville, Ala., has known Andres since they were kids, having met when he came to visit the United States with his parents. Pendergrass has been involved with mission trips to Baja since she was 14. “I met Andres by working with him as a translator for Baja Missions,” Pendergrass said.  “I’ve seen what a hard worker he is, but it’s been fun getting to know him on a deeper level in this environment.”

Some people might expect that the education Gonzalez is receiving at LU might be more challenging due to language or cultural barriers, but he disagrees, saying that he is used to American customs. “I really like my classes,” Gonzalez said. “It feels more personalized at LU, and the teachers are more accessible.  I also like the fact that all my teachers go to church, and it’s nice having some of them begin class with a prayer or a song.”

Gonzalez’s favorite part about life at LU is freedom. He loves being independent and having the freedom to make his own choices. He also enjoys having so many people around that are his age that he can spend time with. He says it is nice to have people smile at him around campus regardless of whether they know him or not. “It hasn’t fully hit me yet,” Gonzalez said. “At times, I will be walking to class and it freaks me out. I am like ‘Whoa, I live here now.’ It just feels weird.”

So far, the transition from Baja to Tennessee has been a good one for Gonzalez with only one complaint—the food. One of the things he misses most is eating fresh foods from different restaurants in the city and meals prepared by his grandma, as compared to everything he sees here that’s “frozen and prepackaged.”  He passionately described his favorite meal “carne asada” (steak). 

Gonzalez said he is unsure about what the future holds for him, but he is equipped with a positive attitude.  The first thing that he would like LU students to know about him is that he is single. He also wants students to know that he is available to answer any questions about Spanish, adding that if anyone simply likes the language and wants to practice he would be glad to help. 

*Article courtesy of The Babbler October 15, 2009 edition