Submitted by David Klenk Graduate Assistant to Communications and PR
David Klenk: Welcome to another edition of Saints Spotlight. Today we are featuring Thomas More international student Sophia Hermosilla from Panama. Sofia had a fantastic internship in the summer of 2023, which she will talk about today. Thank you very much for joining us. Firstly, can you tell us about your field of study and why it is so important to you?
Sophia Hermosilla: I am studying international studies and political science here at Thomas More. International studies tries to explain and understand how states interact with other countries and political science is more a local study of government of different government forums. It is important to me because, since I was a teenager, I was interested in politics back home and how can we improve those politics, both domestically and internationally.
DK: What was your internship directly about?
SH: So I was in Colombia, in the embassy of Panama. At first, I was an assistant of the Ambassador Liliana Fernandez and I would write official documents for Panama and we deliver them to the government back home or we will rearrange schedules, meetings, events, and we will attend to those. Mostly they were cultural and art events to enhance the Panamanian culture.
DK: How did you secure your spot in the internship, was it competitive?
SH: I had a connection prior to coming to Thomas More, and they connected me to the embassy of Panama in Colombia and that’s how secure my spot.
DK: What attracted you working towards government, you said you were as interested in politics as a kid?
SH: Yes. When I was probably a junior or sophomore in high school, I got into a program that was like a youth senate, and for a week we would draft laws, we would work as a senator in Panama. And since then, I was very interested in public relations and how to help the community towards politics.
DK: What was the name of that high school government?
SH: Well back home and high school was called Colegio San Agustín de Penonomé, and the program was a government program and it chooses deputies, that’s the equivalent of a senator here in the United States.
DK: That’s awesome. What would you say are the top three takeaways from your internship, such as projects you are part of, people you engage with, or the experience as unique to you?
SH: So this internship, I fell in love with it. It was the perfect opportunity for me to make sure and confirm what I like and how I like public relations, especially international relations. I didn’t only improve as a professional, but as a person. I had to work and live in a country I’ve never been to, Colombia, and had to adapt very quickly in less than three months. Another thing that the embassy taught me is how to adapt very quickly; how things situations might change so fast that you need to adapt in the moment. One of those was the first event I went to was a Central American film event. For two weeks, maybe three, we expose and we show to the Colombian community, Central American movies directed by as far as Africa, Armenians, people from Costa Rica and stuff like that. It was very beautiful to see how we can share our culture to Colombia and Colombia will share to us, their culture, and how we can make a mix of it. Make a better combination of cultures.
I was impressed by how many internationals will come to these events, from all around the world. It was a little melting pot at all these events, it was so beautiful.
Another event that really caught my eye, was called Latto Maretto, a Panamanian group that plays classical music from Panama and they will play a song, then they will explain it like the importance of remembering our roots and how we can make Panama better by remembering our past to working on our future.
And the last one was the Colombian elections. I arrived in a very interesting point for Colombia, and as a political science major, it’s very intriguing to see how each country sees elections, especially presidential elections. I was able to compare how Panamanian elections, the United States elections, and the Columbia are so different, even though we are the same region – America. That was very interesting. So yeah, those are my three takeaways, other than having a good time.
DK: What is your current plan for after graduation?
SH: So after graduation, I’m debating still if I apply to a job in the International Relations Department in Panama, or getting a master’s degree in diplomacy.
DK: Did your internship help determine your path?
SH: Yes, it did. I always wanted to be abroad and see the world, see other cultures – learn how other communities interact and how their customs are so important to them, as mine are to me and I had that opportunity in Colombia. Now I want to keep that route of working in embassies.
DK: Certainly. How did you find Thomas More University and how did you know it was the right school for you?
SH: Finding Thomas More was very interesting. Thomas More went to Panama in my junior year, that was probably around 2018. They presented themselves and they welcomed us to Thomas More. I was like, “why not try?” I applied and they accepted me and now I am here. I always found it very curious that Thomas More was a very welcoming community, very friendly. I thought that that personal connection with professors, staff, and students was going to do great for my field of studies. That’s why I chose Thomas More.
DK: You said Thomas More had a trip down to Panama back in what year?
SH: I don’t remember but I was a junior, so it was probably 2018/2019.
DK: Do you remember by chance what program or what professor was leading that trip?
SH: I could not tell you.
DK: That’s still so cool, just to see a random University from Kentucky all the way in Panama and say I’m gonna give that a shot and look at what it’s led to!
SH: Yes, we are nine Panamanians from the same program of recruitment.
DK: So you and all of your friends all saw the group, the trip come to Panama, and said “let’s all check it out together.”
SH: Yeah, Thomas More went to different schools in Panama and we all met here. There’s one boy, he’s my best friend since we were seven years old. We applied together, so it was pretty fun.
DK: That is awesome and you all have been able to stay in contact and work together. That’s awesome, do you have any advice for your fellow classmates?
SH: Yes, I do. Follow your dreams, work hard, and be determined and everything is possible as long as we have a positive mindset.
DK: Then lastly, if you were to go on a trip to Panama and you were to see someone like how you were back in 2018 or so, thinking about this university, what would you tell her?
SH: I will tell them to apply, we don’t lose anything applying. There is always a possibility of meeting new people and making connections, that’s about college. It’s not only grades, it’s about getting to know people, different cultures, different points of view, and ideologies, and getting out of the country is a very good example to do that. I think it’s a very good opportunity to come to Thomas More.
DK: Sophia, thanks so much for being our Saints Spotlight today.