Andrea Soleta, an international student from the Philippines and her fiancée , Chris Schmutz.

Love Triumphs Over Cultural and Racial Differences

Andrea Soleta, an international student from the Philippines, shares how her journey of pursuing the American dream led her to find the love of her life.

Love is certainly beyond boundaries, and when we say boundaries, we mean it by all means. No sort of racial, religious, or geographical disparities can keep love birds apart. In this edition of love brewing over disparities, we bring you stories of true love that battle differences of all kinds to reach unison.

In this story, we speak about Andrea Soleta, an international student from the Philippines, who left her native country to come to America and achieve her American dream.

For a young 18-year-old, coming to America was terrifying to say the least. But Andrea was quite determined that she would fight against all odds to be here, and with the support from her parents, she first came to the States in January 2010.

Coming from a country near the equator, Andrea was welcomed in the new country with an onslaught of snow – something she had not experienced before in her tropical habitat.

She explains her avatar and emotional turmoil of the day she entered on the American soil. “I was wearing flat shoes and pants in negative ten degrees temperature as I remember the exact date to be the 2nd of Jan. (My) nose was bleeding. (There were) only white people all around, something unusual in my country.”

Things were difficult in the beginning in all spheres – emotional, financial, educational, et al. But when asked what made her come to the US at the first place, Andrea said, “(I was) really fascinated by foreign education. I had a goal. I had a poster of BYU (Brigham Young University) in my bedroom since childhood, featuring an airplane against the backdrop of the world map.”

“I was just 10-12 years old that time,” Andrea mentioned, who studied Political Science at the undergraduate level at the Birmingham Young University.

Studying political science is quite an unconventional field for most international students, who usually throng engineering, business, and music majors. We asked Andrea what made her choose political science for her undergraduate studies. “Coming from the Philippines, I saw poverty first-hand. I wanted to help people who could not help themselves. I think education for kids will eradicate poverty as many people are uneducated, so we’re stuck in poverty. Political science will help me further in this regard.”

Although her enthusiasm was sky-rocketing and she was all set to make all her dreams come true, Andrea faced initial setbacks while trying to settle down in an alien country. Of course, her family was several thousands of miles away which drove her towards emotional vulnerability, making friends posed to be another threat to this Philippines native.

Her first friend in America was a Japanese girl and they could relate to each other because both of them were new to the States. She mentioned that it was difficult to make friends since there was a lack of relatability with the locals. Nevertheless, there was no looking back after that because Andrea made tons of American friends soon, who she now proudly calls, “my family.”

These were six American girls, who first started off as friends and then transitioned to being best friends for life. Andrea says that they became better friends than her Philippines buddies too.

With the help of these friends and her academic excellence, she sailed through the four years of college – with some hiccups, of course – but handling it well for the most part as she graduated in 2014 with her bachelor’s degree.

Now was the step to advance further in her educational life as she went on to pursue her master’s in International Business from the University of Utah.

Life wasn’t easy for her as she got rejected from so many jobs on grounds of visa sponsorship. She worked at the college cafeteria for several months to support herself.

She always excelled in her studies and her passion for the craft reflected it. Finally, she got her first career breakthrough with a fully-funded internship in London at the House of Parliament.

She reiterates that students must continuously apply to all sorts of scholarships. “I applied to all sorts of scholarships and did loads of networking and asked for scholarships always,” she said.

In the second semester of her master’s program, something happened. Well, one day, when she went to the church, she met this guy, this guy who she describes as “cute and charming”.

Amidst an activity taking place at the church, this guy – let’s just call him ‘this guy’ for the time-being – came up to Andrea and they started talking.

Now, ‘this guy’ wasn’t just any guy. He was a medical student and a tall, handsome lad. Two months after meeting, Andrea and ‘this guy’ went on a date. Sparks flew fast as Andrea realized that he fit the bill perfectly – well-educated, good-looking, hardworking, God-fearing, and an altogether amazing guy!

Things soon escalated as Andrea met his family, which was from Idaho, and she introduced him to her family over Skype. Both set of families were receptive of their relationship and everything went on very smoothly.

When asked how the couple got along so well with each other, Andrea told proudly, “(We) had so many common goals and similar value system, so (there were) no cultural conflicts as everything was similar.”

She continued, “It wasn’t hard to adjust to each other’s customs; very simple things that had to be explained to each other for open communication is the key.”

“We are best friends, first. We can talk about anything together.”

Andrea didn’t know what was coming up as one day she got an intimation that she was summoned by the bishop of the church. She was nervous, but she went to see him, there was no bishop, but Chris – oh, well, ‘this guy’ is Chris, surprise, surprise – and he handed a 20-page long letter and asked her not to read it then.

Suddenly, a drone appeared before them and he asked her to follow it. It led them to an orchid of mistletoes that came to life with Christmas lights and jazz music in the background.

Her friends popped out from behind the bushes and yelled, “surprise” and as she was looking at them in awe, off came Chris on his knees asking Andrea to marry him! Beautiful!

“We had everyone at the venue – our friends, his family, well-wishers, et al. Everyone was so happy. Chris’ mom flew down from Idaho. I missed my mom at the event; however, she facetimed us till 3 in the morning and was very excited,” Andrea gushed.

“My parents and Chris facetime regularly. They have not met him so far but are very pleased with him and super happy for us.”

This great compatibility transitioned to something even more beautiful as the couple decided to get married which is scheduled for May 2018.

Chris is certainly a dream come true for every girl as he continues to learn Andrea’s native language, Tagalog, and speaks and texts in the language while communicating with her. In fact, they even have a “Tagalog Tuesdays” which imply to speaking only in the language all through the day on Tuesdays.

Andrea cannot stop raving about her future husband as she continues to gush about him, “Chris is doing global rotations in medical school and wants to do a rotation in Philippines. He wants to do rotations in the Philippines so that I could often see my parents.”

Well, we see, why Andrea has such wonderful things to say about her fiancée – because he is just awesome!

Andrea’s life story advocates how a young girl can come to America, study, work, and even find her ultimate prince charming. Her tale is inspiring, encouraging, and absolutely beautiful as it narrates her accomplishment of the American dream.

Love changed her life and helped her get through the difficulties. However, her struggles were real and before meeting the love of her life, she battled all those problems singlehandedly.

In her own words, the Goldman Sach’s employee says, “I understand it could be really difficult for international students the very first time. It takes time, it might take a year, or even years.”

“Just teach yourself patience and be kind to yourself,” she advises. “Hard work, determination, and persistence are the ingredients for success. Keep working hard even while encountering failure regularly. And as my mom quotes: ‘It’s only when you give up, you lose.’”

Well, we are just too proud and happy for this lovely lady, who took zero loans for her undergraduate and graduate studies and got funds from her parents, scholarships, and personal savings to sponsor her studies and attain the position she has earned today.

It seems that Andrea was super lucky to have found Chris. But love is beyond being lucky, you meet whom you deserve. And beyond borders and cultural and racial differences, hard work, determination and persistence gets you to the right place gifting you everlasting love and happiness. Cheers!

Written by Gulnaaz Afzal, Executive Editor

University of Cincinnati 

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