Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Aurora Alcaide MLA ‘18, was always a determined and strong individual. Since middle school, she was a super-star student, excelling in the gifted program at her school. However, in her sophomore year of high school, she learned she was pregnant with a baby boy.
Despite the challenges that come along with pregnancy, she pushed through with support from her mother and graduated top of her class. After graduating, her family moved to Miami, FL with their son. Upon arrival, she had one goal in mind – higher education.
She immediately began to work part-time and study for the SATs to apply to Florida International University (FIU). Her goal was to be admitted into the School of Architecture which required a sketching portfolio so she enrolled in weeknight drawing classes to practice. During this time, she was balancing work, school, and family.
“I remember calling the FIU’s general admissions office to find out when the deadline was and the lady that responded told me to not even try. That I wasn’t going to be picked and it was extremely hard to get in. I began to cry; all that time getting ready for what?” said Aurora.
To her surprise, Aurora received her letter of admittance into FIU’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental and Urban Design (LAEUD). At 26, she began her journey as a freshman in the program. However, during this time Aurora’s strength and determination were tested with many challenges and setbacks, including the hospitalization of her mother and husband and the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
Last spring, Aurora received her master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from FIU. At the commencement ceremony, she was acknowledged as a World’s Ahead Graduate for the College of Communication, Architecture and the Arts (CARTA). Her hard work and story of defiance was a motive for her nomination.
Asides from her recognition, she has received numerous awards most notably, the 2017 Florida ASLA’s Student Design Award and Master’s Thesis Award.
Aurora currently works at civil engineering firm Kimley-Horn where she has begun a full-time position at their Miami offices. In the future, she hopes to use her skills to create spaces that have positive social and environmental impacts.
Read below a Q&A with recent graduate, Aurora:
- What this recognition means to you and your family?
To me, this recognition demonstrates that people noticed my efforts, that even with the many struggles I was able to finish my work on time, take care of kids, work, and sleep every night an average of 7 hrs. For my family it is a reflection of who I am. Determined, dedicated, motivated, and always forging ahead, no matter what life throws at me.
- Graduation is a major scholarly milestone in your life. How do you feel finally finishing?
Honestly? I feel relieved and accomplished! Sometimes I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish and many times I wanted to quit. But thanks to my support system, family, professors and friends I was able to keep going and stay motivated. Sometimes going to school was the only thing that kept me moving forward.
- How was Florida International University opened the doors to you and your future?
By pursuing higher education my mind expanded greatly. I learned so much. Not only by taking the architecture classes, but other electives also helped me understand things in a different way. I also got to meet people from all different countries and cultures, which helped me become more open minded. By obtaining this degree I achieved professional success and maturity. I got hired at a great firm to intern, thanks to Professor Ebru Ozer’s recommendation. That internship turned into a great job offer with flexible work hours and amazing benefits.
- Describe your time at FIU, favorite professor and faculty mentors? Friendships? Etc
While attending FIU I learned a lot, but I also had fun. I love the culture, the people, the atmosphere, the collaboration, the friendships, and some of the best professors, like Ebru Ozer and David Rifkind, to name a few. Professors like those where the ones that inspired me to keep going and think big. With Professor Ozer I was able to connect in a way that I had never connected before. She, like me, is a mother, a professional and an extremely hard and dedicated worker. She’s passionate. I loved that. It inspired me. She always listened and understood me and was always available to help with academic and personal issues. Professor Rifkind was also amazing. With him I learned how great professors should teach. His passion, knowledge, and sarcasm made my time at FIU unforgettable. He believed in me and was always available to help me out with whatever I needed.
- What does being a “Worlds Ahead Graduate” mean to you and how will be continue to strive to be worlds ahead?
I will continue to strive to be worlds ahead by bringing the wealth of knowledge and passion I acquired at FIU at my place of employment. My goal is to shift ideas from what’s expected to new and innovating ones and variety of ways of doing things. I want to bring meaning to the profession and design spaces that are not only pleasant to be in but that serve a higher purpose.
- Any other quotes or details you would like to share.
“Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.”