By Kyerstin Hill
Many of us have an easy car ride, or quick train ride to return home to see our family and friends. We benefit from the usual perks of being home, like sleeping in a normal-sized bed, eating our favorite meals and watching hours of Netflix. We often take the convenience and accessibility of our homes for granted.
Imagine living more than 3,000 miles away from that place you know and love, and having to fly for more than six hours to go to school in a different country. For Xavier “Xavi” Duran-Ballen, this is a reality.
Xavi left his home in Guayaquil, Ecuador to become a full-time Marquette student. He lives in McCormick Hall and loves every minute of it. “I was looking for schools in the United States, and Marquette was in my top three,” he says. “I talked to my cousins, Luke and Liam Timmis, who also go here, and arranged a visit to Marquette. As soon as I came here, I knew this was the best place for me.”
Xavi is the nephew to Sixto Duran-Ballen, the former President of Ecuador, but you would never know from his modest and easy-going demeanor. His cousin, senior Luke Timmis says, “‘Duran-Ballen’ in Ecuador is like ‘Kennedy’ in the US.”
Xavi is no stranger to the United States, though, as he takes annual ski trips to Colorado with his family and visits his cousins in Michigan a few times a year. With an older brother at Loyola University in New Orleans, and two cousins and a close family friend who also attend Marquette, Xavi has quickly become familiar with the American college culture. He says, “I like playing sports, going to parties, hanging out with my friends and enjoying the Marquette nightlife.”
He has also been able to experience other college campuses with his cousin, Luke Timmis, who says, “Obviously Xavi doesn’t go back to Ecuador for shorter breaks (like mid winter break), so we always bring him back to Michigan. If we don’t go back to my house then we’ll take him with us on a college visit. He visited Michigan State for fall break.”
Although his primary language is Spanish and his second language is English, he has had no trouble adjusting to the new environment and meeting new people, which he attributes to Marquette’s “friendly atmosphere.” Unlike most international students, Xavi’s first friends at Marquette were English-speaking midwesterners and he was quickly thrown into a completely new culture. He has also made friends with students from Ecuador and other Spanish-speaking countries and says, “It is nice to speak Spanish once in a while at Marquette.”
As a former high school athlete, Xavi has always enjoyed soccer and wanted to incorporate it into his time at Marquette, so he joined an intramural soccer team this past fall. He is also anxious for basketball season, as his cousins and friends have told him about the excitement surrounding one of Marquette’s favorite times of the year.
Xavi’s high school experience was not much different from the average American student; He went to school, soccer practice, completed his homework and spent any free time with friends and family. Similar to many of our experiences of being away at college, he misses his friends, family and most importantly – his favorite food. Xavi says, “Ecuadorian food is another difficult part to leave back in Ecuador. I wish I could eat some shrimp ceviche (a native seafood dish) here at Marquette.”
While he is still undecided on a major, he is soaking up everything Marquette has to offer. He hopes to live in the United States during one of his three summer vacations, but plans to go back to Ecuador to work this upcoming summer. He wants to pursue a degree in real estate and eventually move back to Ecuador after graduation.