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International student chooses Houston

Venezuelan Andrea Pardo makes Houston home, returns to college and earns BA in Liberal Studies at UH

Ms. Pardo

While attending college in her home country of Venezuela, Andrea Pardo was forced to drop out of school in 2008.

“I moved with my family because of the terrible political and economic circumstances in Venezuela,” she said. “My father was offered a job here, so our family relocated to Houston.”

Not wanting to give up her goal of earning a Liberal Studies degree from the Universidad Metropolitana in Caracas, she planned to return to Venezuela after living for a year in Houston.
Life again disrupted her plans.

Six years later, Pardo is graduating with cum laude honors on May 9, 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies – but she completed her coursework at the University of Houston, not in Caracas.

Transitioning to an American college setting was not difficult for Pardo because she had early exposure to American-style education. Born and raised in Caracas, she attended an American elementary school in that city called Colegio Jefferson. She then went to a Colegio Los Arrayanes, a Catholic high school for girls.

In Houston, Pardo decided to spend her year abroad getting certified as a Veterinary Paramedic at Houston Community College. It was a way to turn her love for animals into something useful.
But as she attended HCC, she began to see Houston as more than way station where she could wait out the economic and political turmoil back home.

“I was making friends and became infatuated by the city,” Pardo said. She realized she may have been underestimating Houston – the city and the university.

“I decided to continue pursuing my Liberal Studies degree at the University of Houston because I felt it offered exactly what I wanted out of a university and it had a great Liberal Studies program,” Pardo said.

As a Liberal Studies major, Pardo had the opportunity to “major in three minors” to complete her bachelor’s degree.

 “I chose French because my grandmother was French and I wanted to learn the language and culture,” she said. “I chose Anthropology because I am fascinated by the history and evolution of humans - I love learning where we come from and why.

“Finally, my third minor is Non-profit Leadership because I want to work with non-profits and help make a difference in the world.”

Tamara Cobb, Pardo’s academic advisor, counts the international student as one of her favorites.

“She always has a smile and a warm, refreshing demeanor,” Cobb said. “I usually communicated with her several times in a given semester because she wanted to be prepared for all of her options in courses and internship opportunities.”

To launch her nonprofit leadership career, Pardo took a full-time internship at Interfaith Ministries for Greater Houston while still a student.

“I helped with the grand opening of Interfaith Ministries’ new Meals on Wheels building,” she said. “I am also learning about the non-profit world and how to apply all the different skills I have acquired during my studies.”

As she prepares for her her career in non-profit work, Pardo has one final project to complete before she enters the professional workforce.

“I’m pregnant with twins!,” she said. “My babies are due August 8.”

During that year when Pardo was waiting to return to Caracas, she met a man she fell in love with, another Venezuelan native who had been living in Houston for 15 years. He showed her home could be where ever she wanted it to be.

“I have to give credit to my husband, Alessandro,” she said.  “He has helped me a lot and supported me through this whole experience.”

She’s felt overwhelmed in her last year of college, but not outdone.

“Balancing family, a full-time internship, a home, and school while pregnant with twins has been difficult, but not impossible to do,” Pardo said. “As long as you keep calm and organize yourself, it can be done.”

- By Monica Byars