Chasing dreams abroad

Senior Luis Alvarado commits to NYU Shanghai


Luis Alvarado

Senior Luis Alvarado poses with his acceptance letter to NYU Shanghai.

As he opens the email, his heart fills with excitement. The long-awaited news from his dream college has finally arrived. Senior Luis Alvarado never expected to be accepted into a prestigious school.

Luis received a full-ride scholarship to New York University in Shanghai. He committed to NYU on Feb. 14 in the midst of the winter storm and decided to major in biology.

“The NYU decisions came out during the winter storm when all the power went out,” Luis said. “I waited for about 40 minutes trying to get the link to load so it was very nerve-wracking. When I opened the page and saw the huge ‘Congratulations’ written across the [screen], I was speechless. I called [my friend] Alicia right away and yelled ‘Oh my gosh, Alicia. I got in.’ I called my sister right after. The feeling was so surreal, and I couldn’t stop smiling.”

Luis committed to NYU because of it being ranked #29 in Best Global Universities and study abroad programs. Its high acceptance rate for medical school inspired him to apply.

“I want to pursue a medical career so I felt it was the best decision,” Luis said. “Not only that, I know people pay thousands of dollars to study abroad and I’m getting the opportunity [to do so] for free. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I would’ve regretted not taking it.”

Luis’ inspiration to pursue a career in the medical field came from his father who had passed in July due to a heart attack. 

“Throughout my life, I was in and out of hospitals due to my father’s health conditions,” Luis said. “This blossomed a curiosity in the human body and I fell in love with biology. Biology was a gateway to understanding what was happening to my father. After his passing, I knew I wanted to major in biology and become a doctor so one day I can help save someone’s life and prevent the feelings that occur when losing a loved one.”

Growing up in a low-income household showed Luis the value of education. NYU, he believes, could provide him with a pathway to a better life for himself and his family.

“My whole life I have lived in poverty, so I want to seek a better future for myself,” Luis said. “I want to be able to care for my mother and sisters and make a name out of myself. I also have [an unhealthy] mentality of wanting to be the smartest in the room, but in a way, I feel as though that has pushed me to strive in school and in life.”

Having many support systems in his family, his sister Paulina Alvarado believes coming from a low-income family has been a motivating factor in his work ethic. 

“Luis has always been very self-driven. He likes to learn and he’s amazing at retaining information,” Paulina said. “[I feel like] recently our father passing away has set a fire [in him] that he needs to make him proud.”

Student council adviser Allison Stamey did her part by serving as a support system for Luis following his father’s passing. As his teacher, Allison Stamey helped Luis keep up with his education. 

“It took some time after his father’s death, but we kept [pushing] him and didn’t let him fall,” Allison said. “Devastation can do a lot of things to a young student. He stayed [on] the path, continued to work hard and is now going to make it. He knows I am always here for him and his family if they ever need me. I’ve been very close to his cousins, Kayla and Brenda Rios, and his sister, Paulina Alvarado. I love that family so much.”

Though he will miss the friends he’s made, Luis said he is ecstatic to move to China and ready to start a new life. 

“It’s honestly pretty nerve-wracking having to leave all of my high school friends and family,” Luis said. “But I know I can’t stay in high school [forever]. I feel as though I am ready to go out into the world and experience life. It’s scary knowing I will be time zones away, but I am also excited for the experiences and memories I’m going to make.”