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California Native Finding New Blue Home at UK

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

Victorville is a city of about 115,000 people located in California’s San Bernardino County, 30 miles southwest of Barstow.

With high desert all around, mountains in the distance and more than one dusty museum devoted to Route 66, the town couldn’t be less like Kentucky if it tried.

In fact, when Kayla Vargas and her family moved to Lexington, they thought they’d arrived at the polar opposite of where they’d come from.

That was a year ago, when the Vargas family followed their hearts and prayers and decided to start over here in Kentucky, site unseen. It brought Kayla to a new place, with new opportunities — one of which was enrolling in UK’s College of Health Sciences.

As we continue to honor our diversity by celebrating National Hispanic American Heritage Month, let’s get to know Kayla Vargas, and find out how a gal from the desert got to feel right at home in Kentucky’s bluegrass.

5 questions with freshman Kayla Vargas …

What did you think of Kentucky when you moved here?

We knew someone living here in Kentucky, but not Lexington. And I’m not going to lie, in the beginning, it was a little difficult to get used to. It’s very slow here, compared to California. And people like to talk to each other. People are just more trusting here, and that isn’t something I’m used to, because California is not that way.  

In California, people would be like, ‘Why are these people talking to me?” You have to be much more aware of who you’re around.

But it’s something l like, now. I like that people want to get to know me.

What led you to UK?

Originally, I was going to apply to a lot of schools in California. But when we moved here, I saw that the UK campus was so close — and so nice — and I wanted to go into a health/medical field. I thought I should probably try to get in here. And that was the best choice.

I still wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do something health-related. This seemed to be the place for me.

So, after about seven weeks, how’s it going so far?

There’s a lot of things to adjust to. I did not realize how busy I was going to be. But I’m adjusting well enough.

I’ve made some friends — people I have lunch with and stuff like that. I feel like we’ve all been really blessed here.

But, being honest, when I walked into my high school classroom in California, it was majority Hispanic and African-American. Here, that’s not the case. There are so many from the same background, which is different than my own. I was pretty surprised. Then again, it wasn’t a negative — just something to get used to.

One of the things we like to talk about at UK is how we try to offer organizations and outlets to help someone who may not be in the majority, so they can have an easier transition. Did you feel this, too?

I know there are a lot of connections out there if I feel isolated or something, which I don’t. Right now, I’m a part of the Christians on Campus Club, and I’m looking at other possibilities.

But yes, it does feel like there are a lot of avenues out there if needed.

What do you tell someone who is interested in coming to CHS or UK?

If they're interested in coming, I say they should do it — you can’t beat the University of Kentucky. It’ll be a great place for you to grow and there's a lot of opportunity with the city of Lexington close by.

And yes, especially if you're going into the medical field, because the hospitals right there definitely provide a lot of connections.

I think I’m right where I need to be