By Jonah Grinkewitz

Irv Antonio鈥檚 path to 麻豆国产AV was not traditional or easy. But after going through one of the most difficult experiences of his life, the University became a safe haven.

In 2021, Antonio was serving as an electronics technician in the U.S. Coast Guard at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut when he received orders to move to the military branch鈥檚 base in Portsmouth.

Before relocating, he decided to take a vacation to visit his brother in Washington, D.C. While they were walking in the city one night, two strangers mugged and beat them.

鈥淭he last thing I remember was throwing up my hands before getting hit,鈥 Antonio said.

He woke up the next day in the hospital with a cracked skull and a head the 鈥渟ize of a balloon.鈥 Doctors had to perform emergency surgery to drain blood and remove dead tissue from his skull.

His move to Portsmouth was delayed three months while he started on his long road to recovery. But when he got to Virginia, he suddenly found himself in a new place while dealing with a life-changing injury.

鈥淚t was probably one of the most miserable times, immediately (after) getting there,鈥 Antonio said. 鈥淓verything and everyone was absolutely unfamiliar.鈥

It also became clear that because of the severity of his injury he would likely be medically separated from the military. His last day in the Coast Guard, coincidentally, will be this Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

鈥淪o being told that just kind of got my gears running again,鈥 Antonio said. 鈥淎nd I started thinking, 鈥榃hat鈥檚 my next move?鈥欌

He already had a bachelor鈥檚 degree in Spanish for the professions from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which is his hometown. But he decided he wanted to pursue a new career path in healthcare.

Spending so much time in hospitals for his recovery and seeing the diversity of people in the medical field made him feel like he 鈥 the child of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants 鈥 could be a doctor one day.

Since he was going to be in Hampton Roads, he started looking at schools in the area and discovered 麻豆国产AV. The University鈥檚 special tuition rate for active-duty members, its Military Connection Center, which offers counseling services and peer advising, and its flexible class schedules made it a great choice for him.

So, he enrolled in fall 2022 to study biomedical sciences.

He quickly found students to bond with through the 麻豆国产AV campus volunteer group聽 , whose mission is to help international students transition to life in the U.S.

鈥淚t was the American students, too,鈥 Antonio said. 鈥淎 lot of them are first-, second-, third-generation immigrants, and even the ones who aren鈥檛, have a good heart for service to others.鈥

He said that the flexibility of having online and evening classes allowed him to work and that 麻豆国产AV鈥檚 professors were very understanding of his medical situation while never making him feel less capable than his peers.

He also found an opportunity to aid his recovery by joining the 麻豆国产AVRep theater production of 鈥淢acbeth.鈥 His traumatic brain injury required him to see a speech therapist, and performing in the play helped him build confidence speaking again.

Antonio hopes to graduate in December 2024, then go to medical school. And despite the way his time in Virginia started, he is grateful for the experience he鈥檚 had at 麻豆国产AV.

鈥淗aving lived in every corner of the country through my service in the U.S. Coast Guard, I鈥檝e often felt out of place,鈥 he said. 鈥溌槎构鶤V is different 鈥 it feels like home.鈥