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Kazakhstan native achieves 4.0 GPA
Regina Castro, 23, of North Providence is a truly international student.
Born in 1989 just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, she moved with her family to Kazakhstan, spent two years in Russia studying at St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University and settled in the United States in 2009.
Now married to an American, she hopes to continue her studies in finance, eventually own her own firm and provide free money management advice to the economically disadvantaged.
Castro came of age during a time of great flux for the nations that formerly constituted the Soviet Union. They went from being a single unified state to many independent countries with poor regional economies.
One advantage Castro had was that her mother, who raised her alone, was employed as an English translator and she encouraged Castro to study the language from a young age.
“It was pretty much just the two of us in the family so she always told me to work hard toward my goals,” Castro said.
As Russia and the U.S.S.R.’s former member states struggled to adapt to capitalism, Castro became fascinated by the new way of doing business and in particular, public relations. This was a new concept for businesses and industries that were newly privatized.
“In our country it was something new and not every school was offering it so I was really excited to find a program,” Castro said. “Before, people wouldn’t pay attention but now it’s an important part of every firm’s success.”
She attended St. Petersburg State as a public relations major and, during one summer break, made a decision that would radically change her life.
Castro signed up for a work/travel program that sent students in Russian universities to the United States to perfect their English, see the country and observe business practices.
“It was just something different to do for the summertime,” Castro said. “You don’t want to just stay at home.”
Castro spent the summer of 2008 as a banquet server at the Belle Mer venue in Newport. This is where she met Rodrigo Castro, a Rhode Island College business student who was working there to help pay for school. The two struck up a relationship and Rodrigo visited Regina in Russia throughout 2009 before asking her to marry him.
“That was my fairytale story,” she said.
The Castros live in North Providence and Rodrigo, now a RIC graduate, works at the State Street Corp.
“I’m very grateful to him,” she said. “He encourages me every day and wants me to focus on school.”
Castro spent her first year in the United States perfecting her language skills and taking noncredit English language courses at CCRI.
“Those classes gave me confidence because I knew the language but not enough to speak up,” she said.
Castro enrolled in regular courses in the fall 2010 semester, took courses each summer to graduate on time and switched her major from public relations to general business.
“My husband suggested that I go into finance and I’m really glad about that decision right now,” Castro said.
She hopes to be a financial analyst, writing about and reviewing investment opportunities and eventually providing free financial advice in her spare time to those who need it.
“I’ve always liked helping people and, even in finance, there’s ways to do it,” Castro said.
She has been active at CCRI as a member of Collegiate DECA, a club for business, marketing and hospitality students, the Students for Environmental Action Club and the Honors Program.
She also participated in Cultural Awareness Day, speaking about her country during the All College Week event at the Liston Campus.
She visits her family in Kazakhstan once a year, but frequently misses her mother, who she said has always been very supportive.
“It’s been very difficult to adjust,” Castro said. “I’m still adjusting. But one thing I really like about America is there’s such a great diversity of people here.”
Castro thanked the professors and staff members at CCRI for their help, particularly Associate English Professor Richard Tessier, business Professor Marcel Berard and the staff of the Flanagan Campus library where she worked.
“I’m grateful that CCRI has opened the door for me and gave me the opportunity and the confidence to succeed,” Castro said. “I would like everyone to know that if someone who just came from another country can succeed, anyone can do it.”
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