Three years after coming as a foreign exchange student to College of the Mainland, Omar Vela returned to say thank you.

After studying at College of the Mainland for one semester, Vela has earned a bachelor’s degree from the Technological Institute of Veracruz and is now thriving as an employee of Citibank in Veracruz, Mexico. As a management analyst for the Gulf of Mexico division, he visited Houston on a work trip and stopped by the college.

"COM to me was a great step in my career. I could get a better job in Mexico when [I studied] in the U.S. It was a great step to improving my English,” said Vela, whose responsibilities include reporting in English to employees in Mexico and the U.S. 

Vela took drafting, reading, writing and management classes at COM in spring 2013. He is especially grateful to professors Susan LeMaster, Veronica Sanchez and Luis Sabido.

"All the time, I email my professors. Luis Sabido and Susan LeMaster helped me with the grant and books,” said Vela.  "With their help, I’m the person I am.”

Funded by a federal grant, the North American Mobility Program allows students to acquire language skills, exposure to other cultures and work-related experience in North America. Sabido facilitated the program at COM and made arrangements for Vela to come.

“He’s a very good student working for an international company,” said Sabido. “Students need interaction with the world and diversity of experience to succeed in this global economy, and the grant facilitated that.”

In addition to classes, Vela joined student clubs to practice English.

"It was the best experience for me because I got friends from different cultures. I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” said Vela. 

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