Studying at Newbury College: Nicole Cabrera Palacios Tells us her Story
This is a story about a young Bolivian woman who wrestled with disappointment and ended up travelling on her own to the United States in pursuit of her academic and professional dreams.
This story is about Nicole Cabrera Palacios. She was born in La Paz, Bolivia and her childhood was spent in the city of Santa Cruz. At the age of 13, her life changed dramatically; Nicole and her sister moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to live with their father – a petroleum engineer whose work had him travelling regularly around the world. This marked Nicole’s first journey outside of Bolivia – the first time she encountered a culture different than her own, the first time she studied outside of her home country, the first time she learned a new language.
Discovering New Places
Moving to Brazil was transformative for Nicole; the experience opened her mind to new ideas and also ignited her curiosity about different countries and what knowledge she could gain from international travel. Due to the nature of her father’s work, she moved around a lot during her teenage years. On this, she comments, “Adjusting to the new teaching systems was always the most difficult part for me. However, after that initial adjustment phase, it was relatively easy for me to catch up academically.” This much is evident, as despite regularly shifting schools and homes, Nicole still graduated fifth in her graduating high school class.
Looking back on her nomadic high school life, she says that her overall school experiences were enjoyable and full of good memories.
Facing a Change of Heart and a Challenge
Nicole decided to move to Argentina after graduation to pursue her higher education. In Argentina, Nicole attended university to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture. After a few months, however, she realized that what she really wanted to study was Interior Design; her interest was in studying the inner structures and spaces of buildings and homes. Nicole said, “I was curious about how an interior environment can be manipulated and changed for the needs of each client.”
After some research, Nicole discovered that in Argentina, Interior Design was considered a part of an Architectural degree or it was offered as only an Associate’s degree, not a Bachelor’s. Disheartened by this information, she realized that she needed to find a different place to study, one where she could properly pursue a 4-year Interior Design program. Initially, she searched for universities in other Latin American countries, so she could be closer to her family. Unfortunately, she encountered the same responses she received in Argentina and after a lengthy discussion with her father, she decided to complete her higher education in the United States.
After sending out applications, Nicole received acceptances from colleges in the Boston area. The next challenge Nicole faced was deciding which institution she would finally attend. After a lot of research and soul-searching, Nicole chose to attend Newbury College in Brookline, Massachusetts because she believed it had the best Interior Design program out of the lot. She also decided upon attending Newbury because of its small size; her high school graduating class had a mere 32 students, so a smaller-scale learning atmosphere was what she knew best. She said, “I realized that Newbury’s small environment would give me the chance to have one-on-one relationships with my professors as well as get to really know other students.”
Onwards to Brookline, USA
Having never lived in the USA, moving to Newbury was a big change. Nicole says that she needed time to adjust to the new environment and lifestyle.
Newbury College is located in Brookline, Massachusetts – a beautiful suburban area of Boston. Its tranquil location, however, does not mean it is secluded and far-removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. A shuttle bus will drop you to the train station and from there Boston is only a 30-45 min train ride away. Shuttle buses also transport you to Cleveland Circle, a popular area filled with restaurants, bars and convenience stores.
Interior Design, Psychology and Much More
At Newbury, Nicole received the opportunity to study what she loved, Interior Design, and she coupled it with a minor in Psychology. Though the connection between the two fields of study may not seem obvious to everyone, to Nicole, it was a matter of common sense. “The interior of a space can influence a person deeply,” she says. She goes on to explain that if your living space does not express who you are and what you like, then it will not be a place where you can completely relax and re-energize for the next day. She further states, “In order to create an appropriate space, a designer must be able to read his or her client – this is how psychology is intricately tied to Interior Design.” The ability to analyse her clients enables Nicole to select suitable colours, materials, finishes and arrangements to fulfil her client’s needs.
Now a senior at Newbury College, Nicole is the President of the Interior Design Club. The club provides opportunities for students to talk to interior design professionals about work prospects and resumes. The club also organizes events where like-minded students can discuss interior design and to get to know each other better.
Aside from leading the Interior Design Club, Nicole partakes in community service projects and is also a Newbury Admission Ambassador. As an Ambassador, her work hours are adjusted around her class schedule and she has ample opportunity to be involved with the college community. “I believe that becoming an Ambassador was one of the best decisions I have made as a student. Being a part of the Ambassador team has helped me find a place in the Newbury community, expand friendships and learn new leadership skills.”
After graduation, Nicole will work for a year in the United States and then she plans on heading to Europe to earn a Master’s Degree in Environmental Design.
Words of Wisdom
Nicole wants other international students to know that after making the brave decision to study abroad, it is important to embrace the change and amazing new opportunities that come your way.
Newbury has given Nicole a well-rounded education, lifelong friends and unforgettable memories. From her own experience, she concludes, “Newbury is a small community, but it will receive you with wide open arms.”