Sofia Herrarte doesn’t want to leave.
When she first came to London four years ago, she felt the city was small. Closed off. Less of a metropolis than expected. But when she came to campus, Herrarte’s opinion changed.
“I was happy – it was bigger now and there was a diverse student population, which I liked,” said Herrarte, 24, who came to Western from Guatemala.
Had she stayed home, she would be working as a lawyer, a doctor or in finance – landing in traditional jobs, she noted. And while she excelled in all subjects in school, Herrarte always had an affinity for the arts and the written word. She gave journalism school a try for one year after high school, but it just wasn’t enough. That’s why she came to Western.
“For me, it was definitely necessary to go abroad and look for different options. I like English, art and history. I knew that was my passion, and I decided to go for that,” Herrarte added, noting her uncle lives in London and recommended Western.
On June 15, Herrarte will receive her Bachelor of Arts degree (having done an Honors Double Major in English Literature and Museum & Curatorial Studies), alongside two gold medals, at the 305th installment of Western’s Convocation.
She was social, outgoing and focused on her studies – all at once – from the get go. One regret is choosing to live off campus, Herrarte explained, because it made for a lonely blunder in her early days.
“One of the mistakes I made was deciding not to live in residence; I decided I was better off living on my own because I was a bit older,” she said.
Herrarte picked up the social slack by getting involved in extracurricular activities on campus, notably Western’s Summer Academic Orientation (SAO) program in her second year. She wanted to help other newcomers to Western and other international students acclimatize to their new home. Since then, she has worked in various roles with the Student Success Centre, and, this summer, is working full-time as its Scholars’ Programs and SAO Student Coordinator.
A Scholar’s Electives student, Herrarte has done exceedingly well in her studies over the past four years. She has maintained her place on the Dean’s Honour Roll and received a number of scholarships and awards, including the Bounce Scholarship for achieving the highest mark in a 17th century English course, the Arts & Humanities Entry Scholarship of Excellence and the Scholarship of Distinction.
But June 15 won’t mark the end of Herrarte’s time and studies at Western. She is returning in the fall for a master’s degree in English, looking to hone in on Victorian Literature. When she’s finished with that, she plans to follow in the footsteps of those who inspired her and pursue a PhD, with the goal of becoming a professor.
“I can’t say there was one time in a class that I could say, ‘Oh, I wish I was somewhere else.’ The professors here – I love Dr. (David) Bentley; he’s fantastic – are all great. How they treat you, and share ideas, and see you as an equal, is something I really like,” Herrarte said.
“For me, reading is one of my happy places. It’s what I like to do, something that comes naturally to me. I enjoy reading and looking for those things you don’t necessarily find in articles or essays, looking at how characters behave, what it means – I just really enjoy that,” she continued.
“And I enjoy being with people. Being a professor, I would always be surrounded by literature and would have that contact with students.”