As a high-school student in Guatemala, Rolando Archila knew he wanted to attend college in the US. His search focused on top business programs, but he had another important criterion too.
“I discarded Texas, California, Florida and those places where I would be with people like me,” says Rolando. “I’ve always liked experiencing other cultures, and I wanted it to be as different as it could be.”
Rolando ended up at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he was the only native Spanish speaker he knew when he started in 2006. As a major in marketing and entrepreneurship, he landed a summer internship with a Cincinnati company that helps brands around the world create new products. At the time it seemed like a good way to get experience that would help him in his career; he wasn’t expecting to find a city he could love.
“If you’re from outside the States, you don’t know where Cincinnati is,” he says. “I didn’t know all the cool stuff that was here. I liked that it was picturesque, I liked that it was affordable, and liked that it was urban enough that there a was a lot to do but it wasn’t overwhelming.”
That summer, spent living in Clifton with access to everything a college student would want, made it easier for Rolando to imagine himself living here after graduation. The company he’d interned with, Seed Strategy, liked him so much that they were willing to sponsor him for an H1B visa, which allows skilled foreign workers to stay in the US and apply for permanent residency. He started as a project director and was soon promoted to senior vice president for innovation, a position that was created for him.
While Rolando finds some details of life in the US, like registering a car, to be bewildering for immigrants, he generally finds his life in Cincinnati rewarding. As in Bloomington, he spends most of his time with people who grew up here, including his wife.
There is the satisfaction of immersing himself in the culture he’s surrounded by, but he also finds the contrast between his native Guatemala – which he still visits frequently – and Cincinnati helps sharpen his skills and his work.
“Creativity comes from connections, from taking two different things and merging them together,” he says. “You very quickly get used to the stimulus around you, so I think immigrants can easily see deficits and advantages and assess where opportunities exist.”
“I’m a big believer that exposure to different kinds of people makes you a better person in general. It teaches you you’re seeing the world through one small sliver of seven billion different slivers.”