For Chapman’s first-ever Rhodes Scholar Vidal Arroyo, culture shock first hit when he visited a U.K. grocery store that did not sell “Tapatio” hot sauce.
“They didn’t even know what Tapatio was,” remarked Arroyo. “This was the first time I really thought, ‘oh no, I’m not home at all.'”
Arroyo, a first-generation student from Rancho Santa Margarita, is studying statistics and conducting research at Oxford University in England as a member of the prestigious Rhodes Scholars Class of 2019. He is one of 32 U.S. scholars selected for this Scholarship which provides all expenses for up to four years of study.
Despite missing Tapatio and being one of the few Latinx people in England, Arroyo says he really enjoys the new cultural atmosphere. In fact, he appreciates the challenge of being surrounded by people who do not look like him.
He also notes that the lack of Latinx role models in the sciences does not slow him down.
“I take pride in my identity and don’t see it as a hindrance,” he said. “I’ve learned that, as an academic and as a scientist, I am as good as anybody else.”
Arroyo has ambitious academic goals, and aims to use his Oxford experience to grow as a scientist. Specifically, he hopes to use computer science, statistics, and traditional biology techniques to learn more about biology and human diseases. After Oxford, he wants to become a physician-scientist, though his research topic is still being developed.
“My interests are metamorphizing before my eyes,” he expressed, “so, I don’t want to put myself in a box yet.”
The Rhodes Scholarship has helped Arroyo grow–not only as an academic, but also as a person. When he is not studying or conducting research, he enjoys reading, body-building, and playing guitar. He also loves exploring the English music scene, and looks forward to seeing some of his favorite artists perform in London.
“I’m trying to have a better balance than I had during undergrad,” Arroyo said. “It’s important for me to be smarter about my time at work to engage in hobbies while still maintaining my academic goals.”
Although Arroyo knew no one except for “the queen from T.V.” when he arrived in England, he has been meeting many new people from all over the world at Oxford, often during mingling events hosted at the Rhodes house.
“The Rhodes community has so many talented, kind, and compassionate people who I feel privileged to call my friends,” Arroyo said.
The director of the Center for Undergraduate Excellence, Dr. Julye Bidmead, met up with Vidal in January while traveling in Oxford.
“Having worked closely with Vidal since his first year at Chapman, I felt proud to see him in his graduate program at Oxford,” Dr. Bidmead said.
She continued, “We had lunch in his college’s Great Hall (dining room), and then Vidal took me on a tour of his daily life at Oxford. We visited his college’s Common Room, his small but efficient dorm room and then we headed to the Math department where Vidal conducts his research. A highlight of the visit was the Rhodes House, where it as obvious to me that Vidal was as well-loved at Oxford as he was at Chapman.”
Addressing prospective applicants to the Rhodes scholarship and other opportunities such as Gates or Fulbright, Arroyo says go for it, start early, and put in the work.
“I personally thought I was a long shot away from this, but many people think that. If you’re a qualified candidate with the right resume, the only thing holding you back is having a good application,” said Arroyo.
Arroyo, who personally went through over 30 drafts of his personal statement before submitting it, urges Chapman students to “embrace hard work with pride.” He also encourages students to “be humble,” and reach out to mentors, and past winners, for advice and support through the application process.
“Even if you don’t win, your time [applying] is not wasted because the amount of reflection you get from this is incomparable. It’s a totally worthy investment, and life-changing,” Arroyo shared.
Are you interested in applying to the Rhodes Scholarship? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, and to get you connected to Vidal Arroyo!