#inTheirVoice: “About Girls Unapologetically Outspoken.”

Stephanie Villalobos

“When I look back at those days and compare my challenges today to what they were, I know I have all that I need to be successful today and for the rest of my days.” –Stephanie Villalobos, IPD ‘18

My story began in Mexico when my mother got pregnant with me at 23 years of age. She knew her life would be in danger if she stayed behind; if her family discovered the pregnancy, so she fled to the United States when she began showing to meet with my father on the San Diego, California border. I was born in Santa Ana, California; a city that is known for being a Mexican immigrant city. From a very young age, my parents insisted that I pursue opportunities that were never granted to them in their youth. That meant higher education, travel, sports, and taking risks on our dreams.

When I was 14 years old, my father was imprisoned and eventually deported, so my family and I lived under the poverty line for many years. It was an experience that made my mother, siblings, and I take on additional responsibilities. We watched each other grow in grace. We did not let those challenges get in the way of our goals. If anything, it lit a fire within us to not let the hardships get in the way of our goals. We became extremely resourceful, humble, hard working, and most importantly UNITED as a family. When I look back at those days and compare my challenges today to what they were, I know I have all that I need to be successful today and for the rest of my days.

Liz and Stephanie checking out their photos

I lived in Hawaii for 6 years prior to arriving at MIIS. I got my bachelor’s degree on the island and decided to stay after my time in school to surf and live the “tropical lifestyle”. I hit a glass ceiling in my growth, so I realized that graduate school would be the best choice for me at that point. Going to the Middlebury Institute was a natural step in my professional and personal progression in life because it encouraged me to embrace and become more of who I am.

I wanted to learn how to eventually make better money with the platform I was born with and MIIS had all the tools I needed to get to that next level. I am on the tail end of my program as an International Policy and Development master and am now working on the capstone of my degree at the Department of Defense as a research and translation intern.

Power to the People, Stephanie V

Leaving MIIS for my practicum felt like I was 18 years old moving away from home all over again. I am feeling extremely homesick for my MIIS community, my family, California, and the more relaxed worldviews on life. Despite my struggles, I know that sticking it out in Washington DC for my practicum will give me invaluable skills that will be applicable in several aspects of my personal and professional life 💛

 

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