Andres Ibarra

Andres IbarraIt was a sunny afternoon on November the 8th of 1990 when I was born. My parents, Humberto and Eucaris, chose the name Andres Felipe for me, a very well known name in my country Colombia. I was born in the city of Barranquilla which is a coastal city characterized by its intense heat, humidity, and its joyful inhabitants. My complete name is Andres Felipe Ibarra Mendoza and I was blessed to born into a loving family made out of five members including both of my parents, my sister Sandra Milena, my brother Carlos Humberto and of course, myself.

My early childhood was characterized by a mixture of fun, happy moments and some bad, painful falls while I learned how to control my body. I was raised in a small neighbourhood where I made some valuable friendships and enjoyed most of my childhood. I went to a day care for a few of my early years, but soon after I was moved into Karl C. Parrish which would become a special place where I would spend 14 of my 19 years of life and share the most memorable moments with my classmates. In this school is where I got the great opportunity of learning how to speak and write some English for which I am so thankful to God for. By the time I got to elementary school, my sister was awarded the GRSP scholarship in 1997, and in summer of that year she left to study abroad in the United States. Even though this was a unique opportunity for my sister to get a great experience and seek for a better future, it also brought some melancholy into my family because she was the first one to leave the house, and well, changes take time to get used to.

Three years later, it was time for my brother to graduate from high school, and well he had intentions of coming to study in the United States as well. Unfortunately some issues came up and he couldn’t make it that year. Luckily, a year later after completing two semesters in a recognized university in our city, Carlos was awarded the GRSP scholarship too! This was certainly another great, well-received news in the family. There was of course the slight melancholy of having to let go of another member. While both of them were completing their college studies in this country, I was back in Colombia finishing my middle school years.

It was early during these years where I discovered one of the talents that I am most proud and glad of having. That is my ability to play percussion instruments, specifically the drums. Since I was a little kid, my mother used to take me with her to church once or twice a week, and there I saw a drum set for the very first time. I remember how amazed I was every single time I saw that drummer play those drums with so much passion and talent! I just knew right away that I wanted to play this instrument for the rest of my life. So I started playing for different school events, such as Christmas, carnivals, and the annual song festival. I also made it into the wind band playing the drums to accompany and play the rhythm of the songs performed. As time went on and I got more practice, I started feeling more comfortable and secure, so by the time I got to high school my stage fear had decreased severely. By that time a few of my classmates and I had formed the school’s rock band and slowly earned people’s respect and admiration for our talent. From this point on we started performing in almost every different student event that the school hosted, and not only that but we started playing outside school in bars, restaurants, parks, etc. This is something I am very proud of and would not change for anything.

Thanks to the blessing of getting the Rotary scholarship, both of my siblings opened a new door for their future. After that first year of scholarship they were able to seek more opportunities and finish their studies in Georgia. My family and I really missed them a lot, and since they couldn’t always come back to visit us in Colombia, God gave us the opportunity of coming to the United States for the first time for both my parents and myself. This was a great experience for all of us, and it was when I realized how kind this country and its people were. Even though I was still a kid, I was fascinated by it and wished that I too had the opportunity of coming to study one day. On the coming years of middle and high school I got more opportunities of coming to Georgia to visit my siblings and each time my desire to study abroad in this country grew more. So it was finally my senior year and it was time for me to start looking into my college studies. It was something new and exciting for me just thinking about it, but at the same time it was scary and something that required a lot of thinking and research. I always had in mind the GRSP scholarship but at the beginning it seemed a little hard to achieve because I just thought of all people applying.

Regardless I finished my application and send it together with all of the other necessary papers to Georgia waiting to get good news back sometime after February. In the meantime, while everyone in my class was going through the same situation waiting for colleges to reply, we were having a blast in our senior year. Those are some of the most memorable moments ever to be remembered. When the time was right, everyone started getting replies from their respective universities but still nothing for me. I didn’t know where I was going to end up going, so I started getting a little worried and frustrating after a while. One day while I was in my philosophy class about to finish the day, my teachers received a call on the phone she had in the classroom while she was in the middle of a lesson. She picked up the phone and it turns out to be a call from the high school director’s office telling her to send me there right away. Off course when my teacher told me that I was kind of surprised and all my classmates started making fun of me thinking I was in trouble. I started walking to the office thinking what I had done now, and when I get there it turned out to be what is, perhaps, one of the happiest moments I’ve had. My dad was there together with other employees and they all told me the great news that I had been awarded the Rotary Scholarship and was going to be able to achieve my dream!

It wasn’t long when my graduation came. After enjoying some great summer vacations with family and friends, it was time to come to the United States and get settled. I remember the day I was coming to GC&SU for the first time. It was a mixture of excitement, fear, and anticipation for it was my first time living by myself in a foreign country. Soon classes started and the first week was a little rocky. I was still in the process of getting used to this new lifestyle and figuring out how everything worked. As the year went on, I started making some good friends with different individuals from all over the world. This not only happened through rotary, but also in the dorm where I lived on campus, the international residence hall. During this period just my daily life experiences acquainted me with the American culture. Before the end of the first semester arrived, something unexpected started happening. I met my two next door neighbours, Natalie and Molly. Without us knowing it, Natalie and myself liked each other. Fortunately it did not take long when we realized it and shortly we stated dating.

Currently, we are still together and it has been six great months with her. My wonderful GRSP year is over and after a struggling process I am going to have the opportunity to stay in GCSU for at least one more year. This year has been a blast and I certainly would not trade these for anything. I’ve learned a lot of things: I’ve grown as a person, become independent, learned how to be self sufficient, and most importantly I have learned how to appreciate my own and other cultures.


Andres Ibarra Hattaways

Andres, his parents, his sister and her son with Past President Robbie Hattaway and his family.
Robbie and his family were the host family for Andres.