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Peruvian student helps fellow international students

Community
April 10, 2024

An international treasure 

by Jayden Mendez 

When she was a high schooler in Lima, Peru, Brissa Campos Toscano never imagined she would one day attend college in the United States. 

Since childhood, studying abroad was a concept she thought impossible since her family never traveled outside of Peru due to the cost. 

Brissa Campos Toscano stands in front of St. Louis Hall
Brissa Campos Toscano spent her time at St. Mary’s University advocating for international students like herself.

After arriving at St. Mary’s University in 2021, Campos Toscano, who graduated in May with a major in International and Global Studies and with minors in Political Science and Music, made it her mission to help international students who, like her, were living outside their home countries for the first time.

“I used to hear people of different languages thanking me for the work I’ve done, and it was really rewarding,” Campos Toscano says. “I was not looking for any gratitude or appreciation from everyone else, I wanted to just help other students.” 

During her first semester, Campos Toscano spent time developing connections with her peers, professors and coworkers online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was struck by the strength of the St. Mary’s community when she met her classmates in person for the first time.  

“It felt heartwarming how faculty, staff and even students were really happy to see you,” she said. 

Campos Toscano sought to build more connections and look for a chance to represent her international peers by applying to become a President’s Ambassador in her junior year, something she said allowed her to highlight their journeys to a wider audience.  

“Being able to represent the international community by being a President’s Ambassador let me showcase how international students have been doing at the University,” she said. 

Helping international students 

Because of her newfound connection to the University and her own journey as an international student, Campos Toscano wanted to help students in the United States for the first time find ways to adjust to their new settings.  

Joining the Center for International Programs as a student assistant in 2022, Campos Toscano took the initiative to be a welcoming presence and mentor. She volunteered to pick up students from the airport, bought them food if they were ill and helped them learn English. 

Associate Director of the Intensive English Program Catherine Whitlow praised Campos Toscano’s dedication.  

“I don’t think I could have done so much work with international students without Brissa,” Whitlow said. “She’s always there, and she follows through on her commitments.”  

Andrea Laguna, from Honduras, is one of the students with whom Campos Toscano worked. A senior Engineering major and a fellow President’s Ambassador, Laguna said she is amazed by Campos Toscano’s passion and dedication to others.  

“I was president of the University Programming Council, and we both had to go to the same meeting once a month,” Laguna said. “She wasn’t scared of stepping up and advocating for those students who couldn’t do it themselves.” 

Campos Toscano’s experiences at the Center impacted her, and she said she hopes to continue her work with international students at St. Mary’s.  

“I want to continue learning and experiencing and coming to the University every day knowing I can help students,” Campos Toscano said. “All these opportunities have given me and my family back home the opportunity to renew ourselves as a family and me as an individual.” 

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