COLLEGE COMMUNITY LEADS TO LIFE UNIMAGINED
With her megawatt smile and warm personality, Claudia Artola is the last person you’d describe as “angsty” or “shy.” But those are exactly the words she uses when talking about her life before enrolling at Muscatine Community College (MCC). A first generation college student who grew up in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Artola moved to Muscatine just two years after her family immigrated to California. At the time, she wasn’t exactly thrilled about the move.
“I was really angry at the world because I had just been removed from so many places,” Artola said. “I thought, ‘I’m not going to make any friends, I am from other places, what are we going to have in common?’”
With family already in Muscatine and greater opportunities for work and affordable housing, Artola reluctantly made Muscatine home. Not knowing much about Iowa, let alone her new community, she never imagined this “small” town would house the place destined to change her life.
“When I arrived here, I did not know I had a possibility to go to community college because we didn’t save like most people had the chance to,” she said. “However, I learned about financial aid and received scholarships, so I was able to enroll.”
A BIG HUG
Once she stepped foot on campus, Artola’s anger, angst and shyness slowly began to melt away as she discovered more about her new community, and most importantly, herself.
“The teachers, students and groups, they just offered me that sense of like a big hug. It’s like ‘hi, you are welcome here.’ I just started being more talkative and extroverted, taking on more leadership and just feeling more confident in general.”
As it turned out, she need not worry about making friends or finding her way. Seizing every opportunity, it wasn’t long before she was involved in a number of organizations across campus including theatre and the student newspaper. She also worked as a student ambassador, joined the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), and even started working as the Latino Outreach Assistant for Iowa State Extension and Outreach.
“All my classes and experiences helped me figure out what I wanted to do,” said Artola. “It’s like dominoes, I crossed this door and now I can go through another one.”
When Artola started at MCC, she had no idea what she wanted to do with her life, and quite frankly, did not think she had the resources to go beyond earning her Associate’s Degree. Despite her original doubts, the more she studied, discovered her passions and talked with her advisor, the more she began to realize a Bachelor’s Degree was in fact within her reach.
“It just turned on that ambition that had been a little down since I moved to the U.S. I felt like now I can actually do this…this is what my parents have been fighting for, this is what I have been fighting for…I can actually feel it happening. It was amazing.”
With Eastern Iowa Community Colleges’ countless transfer agreements and Transfer Majors, she was able to earn her Associate’s Degree in Social Work and seamlessly transfer on to the University of Iowa (UI).
“If I didn’t have my advisor and some of my teachers, I would have never made the discovery by myself,” she said. “They were always there for me and I felt very safe to tell them when I didn’t understand the process.”
Now preparing to enter her senior year at UI, majoring in Social Work and minoring in Political Science, Artola is looking forward to the future. While her first year on campus unfolded during a worldwide pandemic, she’s determined to make the most of the next year by getting involved as much as possible and continuing to grow both personally and professionally.
“I want to be the person I needed as a child,” Artola said of her chosen career path. “I’d love to go abroad to Latin America and give back to the community that raised me. I’m also planning to eventually earn my Master’s Degree in social welfare, education or maybe law.”
At this point, the possibilities are limitless—and that’s the thing Artola hopes other EICC students can take away from their time in college. She experienced first-hand the support, resources and encouragement that are right there if you can accept the “big hug” and believe in yourself.
“Be brave, you’re going to find your people,” she said. “I feel like if I hadn’t started at MCC, I don’t know where I would be today. The journey is worth it.”
More Savings, More Benefits
Four-year colleges come to us seeking our students. If your goal is a Bachelor’s Degree… we have a plan. We make the process easy, so you can start here with confidence knowing your credits will transfer.
Transfer Majors at Eastern Iowa Community Colleges provide a complete blueprint for your move to a four-year college or university. More than that, these majors allow you to start your major before you transfer, making it possible to graduate with your Associate’s Degree in a specific field.
Partners in the program include University of Iowa, Iowa State University, University of Northern Iowa, Western Illinois University and St. Ambrose University, just to name a few.
That’s in addition to dozens of seamless transfer agreements with public, private and out-of-state colleges. Learn more at eicc.edu/transfer