When the Challenge is Worth It

When senior Rodrigo Alvarez Gonzalez decided to pursue a college education in the United States, his parents laid it out plain: Their support would still require scholarships to make things work. Fortunately, the Monterrey, Mexico-native had lived in the U.S. previously when his father’s job with Caterpillar brought their family to Naperville, Ill., so the challenge was one he wanted to take on.

While searching for D1 schools (so cross-country scholarships would be an option) with strong engineering programs, Bradley soon became a top choice. After visiting campus and meeting with the coach, Alvarez chose Bradley and made the move to Peoria. 

”I didn't really think I would miss home,” he said. “There was just this thrill of coming to the U.S. and meeting people.”

New to campus and eager to partake in the slew of experiences every class, club and competition offers, Alvarez dove headfirst into everything–which turned out to be too much. In addition to cross country and studying electrical engineering, he joined several student organizations.

“I was stretched way too thin … so I pulled out little by little, making decisions on what to prioritize.” 

Despite mounting homesickness and a workload spiraling out of control, Alvarez stayed the course and met the challenges head-on.

“In high school, I just needed to show up to class and I would do okay. I assumed it was going to be that way in college,” he explained. But after his first exam, he realized he would have to work harder. “I had to sit down and restructure my days to put a bigger emphasis on my schoolwork.”

Putting His Skills to Practice

His next challenge came in the form of an internship. Even with the help of International Student Services and the Smith Career Center, finding work in the United States as an international student is tricky. Pair that with a desire to explore outside the field of engineering and Alvarez soon secured a project management internship with World Wide Technology in St. Louis, a company specializing in things like cybersecurity and data analytics.

“Bradley's a place where you can explore your interests,” he said. “You don't have to pick one over the other. At Bradley, you can do them all.” But, branching his interests out beyond engineering proved to be a bit of a misstep, if an informative one. Within the first week, it dawned on him.

“‘This is not for me,’” he told himself. “‘But, I'm already here. I'm going to have to make the best out of it.’ I was successful while I was there, but it was also a learning experience to realize, ‘Okay, this is not what I want.’"

Refining his interests even further and ready for the next challenge, Alvarez was thrilled when his boss in admissions, Cory Craig, introduced him to some folks at Milwaukee Tool. With the connection formed, Alvarez was able to secure an internship with the product support engineering team. The fit was much better.

Thriving in the fast-paced environment at Milwaukee Tool, Alvarez is thrilled to have had the experience, and ecstatic that they’ve offered him a job after graduation. But, even then, he still intends to stoke the flames behind his Bradley career.

“I've talked to plenty of Bradley alumni at job fairs, and I want to do that as well. I want to be that pipeline for students, whether it’s in the Bradley community, the LGBTQ community, or the Latinx community,” Alvarez said, adding “I couldn't have done so much without the people who supported me along the way.”

–Jenevieve Rowley-Davis

Rodrigo Alvarez Gonzalez running through mud during a cross-country event.

Rodrigo Alvarez Gonzalez poses in the rain with a statue of Lydia Moss Bradley.