For Miguel Garcia in his first 20 years, life has been about two countries, two lifestyles and two languages.
"I've always told this to all my buddies," the cadet said. "It's really hard to explain the Corps to your parents in English. Try doing it in Spanish."
He says he's tried many times to get the point across to family and friends in Valles, Mexico, where Garcia was born. As a teacher's assistant, Garcia now tries to help his fellow Aggies learn his native language.
When he was six years old, Miguel and his brother came to the United States on vacation. A phone call back home changed his life forever.
"We were enrolled in school with our aunt, and we just liked it here," he explained. "We said, 'We don't want to go back. Send money.' And my mom said, 'No, you need someone to raise you.' They had been thinking about going to the United States for a while, so they decided that was the deciding factor."
So the Garcia family made the community of Sealy their home. Miguel began his education, but it wasn't the lesson plans or the new language that struck him, so much as the little things about American schools.
"As a little kid, I used to think if you go to school here, you'd have air conditioning," he said. "You're not in the cold or suffering in the heat. I think the big factor for me was the lunch at school. I don't know why, but that just grabbed my attention."
But lunch and AC didn't educate Garcia. In hindsight, his education in the US prepared him better than what his native land could have provided.
"I think that maybe, in Mexico, I would have been limited, especially with the economy right now," he said. "Job opportunities, anything is much easier to be accomplished here."
When he looks back at his 14 years in America, the move his parents made from their lives and their homes weighs on his mind.
"I think about that everyday, how they sacrificed their whole life for us," he said. "It touches me in my heart everyday."
Miguel expects his mother and father to retire back to Mexico at some point.
Another family influence sparked some interest in Garcia's mind. "My brother, when I was in fourth grade, went to the Marine Corps," he said. "I thought I wanted to do that after high school."
But as he grew older, Miguel realized a military career wasn't for him. And despite looking for a small college to attend, but was even looking at the University of Texas. But as he looked around, an Aggie tradition caught his eye: the Corps.
"I saw one of the recruiting tables in high school," Garcia said. "I saw that and I was like, 'How do you join that?' They said they had to look at my grades, and they gave me all these excuses to join it.
"A&M just seemed like the perfect fit. It was big, but at the same time, it still had that small unity."
He's done a lot in his time at A&M, but Garcia's latest venture in the Corps is as a member of the elite Ross Volunteers.
"You see the quality of men that come out of there," he said. "They go in there and come out of there, and you strive to be like those men."
And the Corps as a whole has given Garcia even more focus, as he strives for a chance at law school. Over and over, he credits the organization for molding him into something more.
"With the family environment that we have here, it seemed to push me until I got where I needed to get," he said, "and then it pushed me even more and raised that bar on me. I know that I owe the Corps a lot."
In a decade-and-a-half, Garcia went from a vacationing youth from Mexico to a member of Texas's elite, all the while maintaining his citizenship from the land he was born in. After getting his parents' blessings this past summer, Miguel Garcia became an American citizen.
"This is where I've grown up," he said. "This is, probably, where I'm going to make the rest of my life. Being able to pay allegiance to somewhere, something, someone, a place that has given me all this, given me my whole life, given me these opportunities, that's the right thing to do."
You can find out more about Miguel Garcia at the official Corps of Cadets website.
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