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Grown away from home: panelists discuss benefits of leaving home

Grown away from home: panelists discuss benefits of leaving home - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

John Salazar, Jr., associate dean of students and director of residence life at Monmouth College, was a panelist at the "Leaving Home" virtual panel hosted on March 31 2021, by the Mays Center. Photo courtesy of Duane Bonifer

Students can benefit from venturing away from home and stepping out of their comfort zones, three panelists said March 31 at a virtual panel hosted by the Mays Center. 

“Don’t knock it till you try it,” Jamal Percy, a wellness and engagement officer with Baltimore city social services said. “It is very rewarding when you are stepping outside of your comfort zone.”

The goal of the panel, “Leaving Home,” was to bring insight and advice on moving away from home. The event was one of several virtual panel discussions hosted by the center this semester. The center invites professionals to discuss issues relevant to students. 

Percy said he wanted to share his experiences as a family-oriented person and his take on leaving his native South Carolina.

“Right out of high school I knew I wanted to get out of state,” Percy said. “I decided to go to college in North Carolina because it was within driving distance in case there were any emergencies.”

About 10 students and members of Texas A&M University-San Antonio attended the Zoom event moderated by Gabriel Barrientez, a career adviser at A&M-San Antonio.

John Salazar, Jr. is the associate dean of students and director of residence life at Monmouth College in Illinois. A San Antonio native, he is the only person in his family who no longer lives in Texas.

“Home for me, I think about Texas,” Salazar said. “I think about San Antonio, but I wanted to experience the world, I wanted something different.”

Salazar double-majored in history and liberal arts at the University of Maryland College Park but is not working in either field. Salazar said it’s important to “take advantage of every opportunity” that presents itself.

“It’s OK to still be unsure about what you want to do,” Salazar said. “I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.” 

Dawn Castillo Harper, a legal U.S. commercial and medical counsel for Alexion Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Boston added that she “didn’t know I wanted to be an attorney, but I knew I wanted to go to law school.”

The guests also responded to questions attendees had during breakout sessions. Percy advised students to take their time with career decisions and to look up jobs people are doing now to find out what they like.

“Don’t feel rushed or pressured to figure out what you want to do,” Percy said. “I’m sure opportunities will open up.”

Salazar advised students to go out and discover who they are and find who they can be. 

“If you feel you need to leave to go wherever for yourself, this is the time in your life to do it, go experience that,” Salazar said. 

Harper said if students decide to explore and relocate, they will always have a home to return to. 

“You will still find your way in a new city,” Harper said. “You can always turn back to where you’re originally from if you do not like it.” 

All three guests agreed moving back to their hometowns did not seem to be in their cards.

It was clear that “our mothers want us back home,” Harper said.

“I think it’s unlikely I will ever move back home,” Harper said. “But I am glad my immediate family lives in Houston. It’s a direct flight from Boston.”

The Mays Center will have the event posted to watch on its YouTube channel @TAMUSA Mays.

Alexandria Perez contributed to this story.

About the Author

Katelyn Kotchey
Katelyn Kotchey is a communication sophomore at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She transferred from West Hills Community College in California. In addition to being a full-time student, she also works at Knight Watch Games. In her free time, she enjoys painting, photography and playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in photojournalism or publishing.

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