An education worth fighting for

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Alyson Gee

Rosario (left) and Roxana (right) Montane, students at Westmont

Lexi McWilliams , Features Editor

The Montane sisters, Roxana and Rosario, are international students from Cuba in their second year at Westmont. Roxana is a music and economics and business double major and Rosario is a music and communications double major. With music as a common passion between them, the Montane sisters both study violin. Although their acceptance into Westmont was a joyous occasion, their journey to campus was filled with many twists and turns.

Roxana was at a university in Cuba studying music before the pandemic. She described the educational system in Cuba, saying, “You cannot get out of what you’re studying. I’ve always wanted to expand my horizons and we always wanted to get out of the island because of the political situation there.” At Roxana’s university, she could not double major or take general education classes such as the ones she enjoys at Westmont. The school in Cuba also had very few resources, so they struggled to stay open during the pandemic and provide basic needs to their students. 

The Montane sisters were living in Havana, Cuba, when they first heard about Westmont. Their cousin, Elizabeth Macias, attended Westmont and visited the Montane family in Cuba three years ago. When Roxana and Rosario heard that Westmont was a Christian college and had a great music program, they excitedly began discussing applying. They had always wanted to apply to schools in the United States and a Christian education was especially intriguing because “in Cuba you cannot have education related to religion,” Rosario says. 

Soon after they applied, they heard back from Westmont with the news that they had been accepted. Rosario and Roxana were shocked at their acceptance and even more surprised to learn that they both received scholarships from Westmont. However, attending Westmont would still be too expensive, not to mention the US embassy in Cuba was closed due to political issues. So, the sisters decided to wait to go to Westmont until the following year, with hopes that waiting would make the acceptance process slightly less impossible. During that time, Rosario prayed and lifted up their problems to God saying, “God, let it be whatever you want it to be.”  

After waiting a year, the Montane sisters heard from Dr. Shasberger — the former music department chair and director of orchestral activities at Westmont — that they were being granted full scholarships to Westmont as a result of their musical talents. Roxana described the moment as “emotional and an answer to all of their wishes.” 

The Montane sisters knew they needed to get their student visas in order to move to America and attend Westmont. Because the United States embassy was still closed, they traveled to the Dominican Republic and stayed with a pastor for a month before they could speak with an official about getting their visas. Citizens of Cuba are often denied visas, but the Montane sisters were able to acquire theirs. 

The Montane sisters arrived in the United States just a few days before the 2021 fall semester began. Although Roxana had previously taken college classes, those courses did not transfer over, meaning she needed to start over when she got to Westmont. Although the Montane sisters miss parts of Cuba, Rosario argues that “home is wherever you can feel safe” and Westmont is that space for now. Roxana says Westmont is a special place to her because “classes are from a Christian perspective, it’s good because it makes us grow in faith.” She knows that in Cuba, her instructors taught her to think in a certain way, but at Westmont she learned to think critically and freely. 

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