Imagine for a moment leaving everything familiar behind you—including your family, friends, and language, and in one quick motion, traveling to a foreign land where people, communication, and customs are all strangely new. Dario Espinoza left his home in Guadalajara, Mexico, to learn English at the English Learning Center (ELC) and realized quickly that language holds the key to understanding, because without understanding what people around you are trying to communicate—whether by words or other means—one cannot get far in life.
After much work, Espinoza passed the TOEFL test, applied, and was accepted to BYU. Settling down in Provo, he had no idea what a difference this decision would make over the next few years or the opportunities that lay ahead. On the way to class one day, a stranger approached and asked him to join the Living Legends performing team. He had seen them perform and thought they were talented; however, his own dancing abilities he wasn’t so sure about, and he declined the offer. After some insistence, he attended a Living Legends rehearsal, met the director, Janielle Christensen, and instantly fell in love with the group, their message, and the Spirit he felt during rehearsals with them.
Espinoza traveled around the country and to Chile during the next year with the group and auditioned to join the team for a second year amid rumors the group would be performing in China. As a Chinese-language major, this trip was extra motivation for Espinoza to rejoin the team. While reading a Utah-based Spanish newspaper, an article about the new consul, Ignacio Rios Navarro, at the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake sparked his interest, and he e-mailed the secretary to ask how he could obtain an internship with the Mexican Foreign Service (MFS).
Espinoza was given the contact information for the Human Resources Department and received more information from them. A chance meeting with Consul Rios at a networking event at the Hinckley Alumni and Visitors Center fueled Espinoza’s desire to work for a Mexican embassy and was further incentive for him to begin preparations to apply for the internship. While working through the application process, he met Professor Eric Hyer, who encouraged Espinoza to apply for the Mexican Embassy in China, since he would be performing there with Living Legends anyway.
After a lengthy application process, Espinoza was accepted. In addition to his internship, and in order to make the very most of the time abroad, he applied for the Nanjing study abroad program to improve his linguistic skills and cultural knowledge about China. He also took a class at the Beijing Foreign Affairs School taught by Hyer. During the first week at the embassy, Espinoza learned to apply the things he had been learning in his international relations classes the past three years at BYU. He saw China from three unique perspectives, each with their own accompanying opportunities.
As a performer with Living Legends, he performed in many cities and for people of different backgrounds—his understanding of the diversity in China increased ten-fold. At the embassy, he learned about the strategic partnerships that exist between countries, particularly between Mexico and China, and the importance of diplomatic communication as a means of maintaining peace and economic and trade development. Through the study abroad program, he experienced the life of a typical college student in China, meeting people his own age, each with their own story to tell. His chance to meet people from all walks of life gave him contacts and connections he could only dream of if he had returned to Guadalajara after learning English. With his newfound understanding of China, he extended his network and expanded his future opportunities upon returning home or forging a new home anywhere he decides to explore next.