Student Success: International Student Prepares for Masters Degree
I meet with faculty, students, and graduates quite a bit, and I like to share their stories. This is an occasional series.
Alberto Lopez Dayer’s life got turned upside down when he was a student majoring in aeronautical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Madrid in Spain. His senior year, he met his future wife, who was teaching in a bilingual elementary school in Madrid through the North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain program. Alberto had a year left of school and still needed to complete his thesis, in which he focused on satellite navigation systems and GPS. As soon as he did, he was off to Colorado, where his then-fiancé was living in Brighton and working toward her master’s in speech language pathology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. The couple married in December 2010, not long after Alberto received his Bachelor of Science.
Improving his English
Even before he met his wife, Alberto says it was a dream of his to come to the United States or another English-speaking country. “I wanted to find an internship in the aviation industry, although they’re tough to find right now, especially with the global economic crisis,” says Alberto.
When he first arrived in Brighton, Alberto couldn’t work until his green card came through, so he focused on learning English. He started volunteering regularly at the Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory at Barr Lake in Brighton and immersed himself in his new community. Within six months, he was able to take the TOEFL test and earn a high enough score to apply to colleges.
Building his skill set
Alberto’s next step was to improve his programming skills. “I felt a certificate that focused on C++ and Java would help me, as I started realizing that most jobs in engineering and aeronautics require strong programming skills, and mine were very weak,” he says. Alberto’s wife suggested he look into FRCC. He started working toward his Programming certificate in summer 2011. “It was exactly what I was looking for. The teachers are great, and I can take classes online. It’s definitely helped me build the skills I need for my future career.”
A new chapter: graduate school
Within just a few months of starting at Front Range, Alberto learned about the M.S. Aerospace Engineering Sciences program at CU Boulder, one of the top aerospace programs in the country. He applied and was accepted into the program. “I know I wouldn’t have gotten into this program without the classes I took at Front Range,” he says. “I didn’t have any programming experience in Madrid, but my FRCC classes and the relationship I built with Steve Kaminski, my instructor, really boosted my application.”
His dream career
Alberto will graduate from CU in 2014, and hopes to have the opportunity to do an internship with NASA or the European Space Agency. Long term, he wants to work either for Lockheed Martin or in the aviation industry with a company like Boeing or Airbus. “Satellite navigation systems are the future of air navigation, and this is what I’m focusing on in my master’s,” says Alberto.
He says he gives a lot of credit to FRCC for where he is today, and even plans to finish that Programming certificate—which he had to set aside to focus on graduate school—in summer 2012. “Front Range offers a high-quality education—it exceeded my expectations. The online classes are well structured and the instructors are very responsive and supportive. They know how to teach a variety of students from all different backgrounds.”