International student athlete launches into post-graduate plans using lessons, skills learned at Auburn
Once you’re finished and graduated, it is all about moving on to greater stuff. I found my passions and goals, so I know I will use that for the rest of my life. ~ Oquendo Bernard '22
The weeks after graduation can be a challenging time for recent graduates. After the final sprint, it can feel like one is just trying to catch their breath before it’s time to begin post-graduate plans. It can feel overwhelming to some, but Oquendo Bernard ‘22, an international student-athlete, is poised at the starting line knowing the lessons and experiences from his time at Auburn will propel him ahead.
Bernard, a double major in international studies and Spanish, hopes to serve as an international representative for the United States government. Government representatives have many responsibilities, something Bernard is more than used to.
In addition to an aspiring international representative, Bernard is an international student from Jamaica who served as the president of his fraternity; led the Spanish club as president; interned at Fundación Abrazando Ilusiones, a nonprofit foundation in Madrid; was a member of the Men’s Track and Field team; and completed six courses per week. Bernard balanced it all with passion and drive.
“I only get involved in things I am passionate about,” said Bernard. “I really enjoy doing everything I do, so it doesn’t hold me down when things get complicated. I make time for everything because I love what I do.”
The College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University offers countless opportunities to get involved on campus and off. It can be challenging for students to figure out what to get involved in. Bernard emphasized the importance of choosing things that are important to oneself.
“I made sure I was passionate and able to give my all into what I was doing,” said Bernard. “I had to prioritize my commitments and clarify that I could give the most and I could get the most out of what I was doing. I made sure I was setting goals for each thing I was a part of to ensure I was getting what I wanted out of it.”
He recently completed a study abroad trip to Spain through the College of Liberal Arts where he gained valuable real-world experience through an internship, took major-related courses and absorbed the culture.
“That trip was an amazing experience that I will remember forever,” said Bernard. “I did the eight-week program which consists of two courses and an internship. I worked with Fundación Abrazando Ilusiones, a program that helps immigrants from north Africa integrate into Spanish culture by teaching them the language and trade skills. It was amazing to talk to people in the community and learn about them and their stories.”
In addition to the internship and his courses, Bernard worked on his own community project where he was able to combine and build upon passions and leadership skills developed through his Auburn experience.
“I was able to work on my own project called Proyecto Social which allowed me to combine my passion for track, Spanish and community service to help people in their community,” said Bernard. “I began a program where members of the community could get up and complete a workout with me. It was an awesome experience.”
Bernard reflects on his busy time on The Plains and advises other students to make the most of their time.
“Looking back on everything, there are so many things to do at Auburn, so make the most of it,” said Bernard. “Being on the other side of it as a graduate, I miss it. I hope others embrace and make the most of their time.”
The track star encourages others to look inward and find their passion to drive them forward.
“Look into yourself and see what you are truly passionate about,” said Bernard. “Once you find those things, seek out those things in your environment. Find out what best fits your interests and passions. If you do that, it is easier to give it your all. When things get hard, it is easy to throw in the towel if you are not passionate about it. If you have a goal you’re set on, you will persevere and find it worthwhile.”