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A sense of pride and community

Last year, 15 per cent of approximately 4,800 undergraduate students in the Faculty of Engineering were international, coming from nearly 60 countries. Engineering I student Fabiola Gonzales Rios from Villahermosa, Mexico, was one of them.

When now-19-year old Fabiola Gonzales Rios came to Canada, she brought a lot of things with her from her hometown of Villahermosa, the capital city of the state of Tabasco, Mexico. But one thing was more important than the rest.

“A sense of pride of where you come from,” says Gonzalez Rios.

The tropical, oil-rich city where she grew up is a contrast of emerald greens, azure and multi-coloured buildings — some of which sell what she considers a delicacy: spicy candy.

“Mexican candy is the best,” says Gonzales Rios. “My friends don’t like it, but I make them eat it because it’s funny to watch them.”

Fabiola Gonzales Rios.

At 15, Gonzales Rios’ parents enrolled her at a boarding school in Oakville, a city tucked in between Hamilton and Toronto, so their daughter could improve her English and have access to more opportunities. Studying engineering was never a question, but where to study it was, until she visited McMaster University in Grade 11.

What she loved most about the university was the welcoming community that made her feel at home in Canada in the first place.

“Even though I’m an international student, I feel like everyone around me is the same in a welcoming and nonjudgmental way,” says Gonzales Rios. “Everyone comes from different places and embraces that." 

While doing research on the Internet, she says she was impressed by the Faculty of Engineering’s consistent top rankings and intrigued by the emphasis on the collaborative approach to learning rather than competing against classmates.

When she visited campus, she saw that what she had read online was true.

“I knew I wanted support with my academics and outside of that,” says Gonzales Rios. “Engineering at McMaster was the friendliest and had a sense of family; I wanted that community.”

It’s unsurprising that community was so important to Gonzales Rios; she’s still close with her friends and family in Mexico, but also appreciates that the distance has allowed her to become more independent.

 Fabiola Gonzales Rios.

“It’s been a great opportunity for growth in terms of my ability to go about my life without my parents and meet people and start doing things that no one else encourages me to do,” she says. “That’s helped me develop my sense of self.”

When the Engineering 1 student isn’t busy with homework, family or friends, she spends her time as being part of Engineers Without Borders, painting and reading.

Her favourite thing to read right now?

“Autobiographies and self-help — I can’t get enough of them.”


Want to more Journey to McMaster Engineering stories? Read our feature story.