Becoming the Owner of Your Own Education

Hertha Maria Torre Gallego, COL ’24, Madrid, Spain

Introspective, wistful, and intense — that is how I remember the months I spent working on my college applications. Yet, as an international student from Spain, I also found the process difficult and puzzling, finding my way through applications, deadlines, and financial documents. This is when the Aditus Program came into play. Unique in its approach, this Spanish program provides mentorship, financial help, and training to a selection of Spanish students with limited resources throughout the college application process to foreign universities. Still, what I got out of the experience was much more than an acceptance to Penn. Through life-long friendships, new aspirations for my future, and an incredible network of Spaniards around the globe, the Aditus Program gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

After, I felt the need to give back to students in similar circumstances; students that felt frustrated with the Spanish university system, students who valued thoughtful learning over professional training, and students who looked for opportunities in a country where the university system has not evolved in decades. I then teamed up with Aditus and became the Main Coordinator for US Applications. This is how, for the last few months, dozens of Spaniard students have had access to a valuable experience in which they not only access top educational institutions, but also reflect and take a step towards their future. Although my role has changed over the years I have collaborated with the Program, I have spent most of this summer creating content for the mentees, assessing their mid-year evaluation, and directing the work and support that mentors put towards each student.

However, while my main objective has been to provide college application support, collaborating with Aditus has shown me that standardized test preparation and essay-writing workshops are not enough. Coming from the Spanish educational system—where most things are set out for you and very little is questioned in terms of ambitions and future expectations—, I find it essential to focus on a holistic approach when accessing higher education. This includes academic and personal support, community service activities, student-mentor panels, and numerous opportunities for the students to connect and find new goals for their futures.

Reflecting on this experience, I now understand that this project goes well beyond educational opportunities. The hours I have spent assessing applications, implementing a new tracking and feedback system, and gathering with my coworkers to build a free-cost experience for these students have culminated in the idea of becoming the owners of our own education. Thus, one of the most influential aspects of my summer experience has been listening and understanding the students’ needs, experiences, and frustrations with the current higher education offerings. Hearing and encountering these circumstances offered me a nuanced view of my current academic interests—access to higher education, its correlation with public health, and its flaws—inspiring me to find future solutions.

Overall, the Aditus Program has been an incredible driver of my future ambitions throughout my undergraduate career. Being able to find parallels between my academic concentrations have made Aditus a wonderful opportunity to put all of my learned knowledge into real, tangible solutions. Finally, gaining exposure in the non-profit education field supports my goal of being involved in this discipline in the future. Collaborating with them again and focusing on this opportunity while being funded by Career Services, an opportunity I am extremely grateful for, has reassured me in my decision to give back to Spanish students in the same way that others did for me a few years ago.

This is part of a series of posts by recipients of the 2022 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

By Career Services
Career Services