Meet Your Board Member: Gabriela Sapón (’17) An International Insider

For international students, it can be quite daunting to graduate from Trinity Western and enter the Canadian workforce for the first time. This was absolutely the case for Gabriela Sapón (’17), one of four newly elected members of the TWU Alumni Board.

The International Experience

Sapón was highly involved in the community at Trinity Western and loved her time there. But when she graduated, she was faced with a lot of uncertainty around what life in Canada would be like as an alumna.

“For some international students, Trinity Western life is Canada life,” Sapón explains. “I’m friends with many who are in the same boat. We live here, but don’t have family in Canada. The transition outside Trinity Western is hard, especially figuring out visa stuff.”

For Sapón—originally from Guatemala—the transition out of school was not smooth. Although she was familiar with Langley, she’d only really experienced it through the lens of Trinity Western. Life was suddenly very different.

“I spent the summer trying to figure out what I wanted to do. It was a time of learning and trusting,” says Sapón.

connecting with alumni

In September, Sapón decided to attend the 2018 Alumni Distinction Awards gala as a way to reconnect with Trinity Western and learn a bit more about the TWU Alumni Association.

“I was so encouraged,” says Sapón of her experience that night. “I couldn’t believe there were so many people who had all gone to Trinity Western that were having such a great impact in the world today. It makes me believe in this community even more.”

“I wish I would have known about it sooner,” Sapón adds.

Hearing stories of what TWU Alumni are doing around the world really inspired her. “I very much have a global mindset. We have so many alumni with passion who have had an impact on a global scale. We should be vocal about that. I feel like I didn’t read much about it as a student. It would have really encouraged me.”

Joining the Board

Being originally from Guatemala, Sapón connected with former Alumni Association President Dave MacDonald (’98), an alumnus who has spent considerable time doing missions work there.

“We were talking about how people who care about Trinity Western should be in leadership, shaping the culture,” says Sapón of MacDonald. “He thought I would have a good perspective, being an international student, and that I should check out the Alumni Association board.”

After her positive experience at the 2018 Alumni Distinction Awards gala, Sapón decided to get involved. She submitted an application for the board and shared some of her ideas with current President, Diane Down (’88, ’15).

“I want to encourage international students who might not have a lot of support and guidance after graduation,” says Sapón. She also hopes to bridge the gap between the student body and the Alumni Association to help in the transition from one form of community to another.

“I want to continue to reach out to the community, to foster those relationships, and to connect new people with those who are available through the Mentorship Program,” says Sapón.

Gaining Experience, Building Community, Growing Skills

Sapón graduated with a Natural Applied Sciences degree in Biology and Chemistry, and minored in International Development. She hopes to one day do her masters in Food Security and Community Development.

“I want to go back to Guatemala and join culturally-sensitive projects that aim to reduce chronic malnutrition in the pooerest regions of the country,” says Sapón.

She hopes to study her masters at UBC, but because of restrictions on her work permit, she’s not able to study again without paying for another education permit.

But despite the delay, Sapón remains optimistic. “I’m learning to be patient,” she says, adding that she plans to earn more experience, give back to the community where she can, and check off the boxes required for getting her Permeant Residency.

“Right now, I have an opportunity to get experience that will help me in getting into a Masters program one day,” she says. As she waits to get her PR, Sapón looks forward to serving and connecting with the TWU Alumni community through her role on the board.

“My mind is set on not letting go of these people, cause they’re all I have here in Canada,” says Sapón.