A Spectacular Christmas Story: International Student Finds Success at University of Mobile

Greg NamanASOTA, News

When Lisa Rosado Rivera was a child in San Juan, Puerto Rico, her family had an annual tradition of watching the University of Mobile’s Christmas Spectacular on satellite television. This week as the university presents the 21st Christmas Spectacular on Nov. 16 – 19, Lisa will be on stage singing with the UM Jazz Band, tap dancing with SoFree, and performing with the University Singers.

“I found out about the University of Mobile because of a tradition my parents and I had every Christmas of watching Christmas Spectacular broadcast on Daystar,” Lisa said. “My dad found the televised program around 15 years ago, and we loved it so much we decided to make it a tradition of watching it every year.

“Before I decided to pursue my master’s degree, I had completely forgotten about UM as an option, but my parents had this school in their hearts and reminded me of our tradition. I came here in the fall of 2021; it has been a blast and such a great journey!”

Lisa is an international student at the University of Mobile, just a few weeks away from graduating with a Master of Music in vocal performance. She spent much of her educational life far from her birth home, receiving a double bachelor’s degree from Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana, before joining the graduate program in the Alabama School of the Arts at the University of Mobile. In her two years at UM, Lisa has been seen singing, dancing, and stage-managing in multiple plays, musicals and operas for the Alabama School of the Arts. 

Tickets are still available to attend Christmas Spectacular at Cottage Hill Baptist Church on Nov. 16-19. Read on to learn more about Lisa’s journey at the University of Mobile. 


What has it been like to pursue your master’s degree at the University of Mobile’s Alabama School of the Arts?

“Being a graduate student here has been an interesting journey for me, especially as an international student. I did not expect to grow as much vocally the way that I have, and it has been so much fun to discover my voice and put all my skills into practice here with all the events at the University of Mobile and ASOTA. It has been better than I could have ever imagined.”

How do you stay connected to your culture and your roots so far from home?

“For starters, my language. My first language is Spanish, and my second language is English, so I speak Spanish whenever I see other Latinos on campus or whenever I talk to my friends and family back home. Secondly, food! I am not the best cook, but I’d love to cook you some Puerto Rican food. Third, I love to share our traditions, dances, holidays and backgrounds. The history is so diverse, and I want to connect with others on campus and show each other our cultures.”

How has UM helped shape your experience here as an international student?

“It is interesting being an international student here in the States because Puerto Rico is not always considered ‘international’ since it is a commonwealth of America. We are still citizens of the U.S., just without certain rights such as voting for the President. Here, I have never felt set apart or separated from the people who have been born and raised here in the States. 

Something else I love about Mobile that I did not know until I traveled here was how diverse this city is. There are so many international students here from all over the world. I get opportunities to share my background and culture with others here, and they get to do the same for me.”

What has your experience been like with the community of students here as an international student?

Lisa with coffee

“Most international students here are in athletics, so as a music major, I do not get to spend much time with them during the day; but I have gotten to know a few. As a Latina myself, I relate easiest with other Latinos and Latinas, which is something I immediately began looking for when I moved onto campus. The first person that I found was Shadoe Valentin, a Latino staff member in ASOTA. He helped me branch out and get to know more people through the international club here. I learned that no matter where you are from, it is your passion, faith and drive that will set you up for success.”

What would you say to potential international students considering studying at the University of Mobile?

“It is important to have a great, diverse community for everyone to join and be together. A lot of international students go through periods of being homesick no matter how far away they are from home, but it is important that community is a family for international and national students. 

“That’s what we have here at the University of Mobile. It is tight-knit and creates special bonds that can be kept forever and go beyond graduation. From the start, you will always have people receiving you, inviting you, making you feel welcome, and making sure you are okay. That is what community is about, especially for international students since we don’t have our families that close. It is an invitation, and it is up to us as international students to accept it and dive into our ‘Higher Education for a Higher Purpose.’”