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For some students, returning to Manhattan College after the semester ends includes a long drive while others board planes and travel thousands of miles from home to return to school. The reasons students enroll at the college are as varied and different as the places where they grew up. For some students, home is a tropical island or even a country in the middle of Europe.  While New York City is like no other city in the world, not every hometown is quite the same either. I am excited to introduce this column for students who are interested in learning a little bit about their classmates and the incredible places they travel from to attend school here. There is no better guide to a new place than a local, and having that special insight can make learning about a new place or even traveling there that much more enjoyable and exciting.

Photo from Daniel Perez.

Photo from Daniel Perez.

On the west side of the island of Puerto Rico is a college town home to the prestigious Recinto Universitario de Mayaguez. Mayaguez, only two and a half hours away from the capital San Juan, is a community of bright students from throughout the island and families who reside in the area. Despite living in a town with what is considered one of the best schools in Puerto Rico, Manhattan College sophomore Daniel Perez decided to attend school in a different place.

For Perez, who is deciding between advertising and broadcasting majors and has a double minor in marketing and film, the decision made sense. Perez has a dream to “work [for] a big film production company or studio.”

“I am a huge movie freak and there is no other place [with] the iconic sites [like] Manhattan,” he said.

While Perez is happy with his choice to attend school in one of the most famous cities in the world, he is also very fond of the place where he grew up. The culture, food, music and traditions of the island are what Perez believes makes Puerto Rico unique to other travel destinations.

A perfect day on the island means “little rain, cloudless skies and a nice cold breeze to resist the heat,” Perez said. With the annual festival Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastian attracting almost everyone on the island, the festive culture of the island is also evident.

Puerto Rico is a tropical island with both mountains and oceans to marvel at, which initially made it difficult for Perez to adjust to life in the big city.

“New York City, of course, is mostly all buildings which made it very hard for me, especially when you were raised on a tropical island,” he said.

But like New York City, Puerto Rico has its own must-see sites throughout the island. The top five attractions Perez would suggest to any student visiting include old San Juan, El Yunque Rainforests, the islands of Vieques of Culebra, Toro Verde Adventure Park and the bioluminescent bay of Fajardo, Vieques or La Parguera, with La Parguera being Perez’s personal favorite.

Located on the southwestern part of the island, about three hours from San Juan, lies a “series of mini islands [of] mangroves,” Perez said, “and the only way to get there is by boat.” With shallow water and virtually no tourists, “people anchor their boats there and enjoy [the scenery].”

Another favorite of Perez is Las Tinajas, technically part of El Yunque, “one of the most famous rainforests in the world,” according to Perez. The waterfalls and crystal clear water are breathtaking and “you can jump from cliffs to the deep waters,” Perez said, “if you’re brave enough.”

Attending school at MC was a dream come true for Perez.

“I have always wanted to live in New York City, ever since my first visit when I was ten years old,” he said.

When deciding on a college, Perez also chose MC because the city “[consists] of many cultures and [is] the center of everything.”

“I knew it was the complete opposite from where I lived, but in my opinion, it is important to leave your comfort zone and adapt to new environments.”

Luckily for Perez, he has adapted well to the change in location. As Perez said, “leaving home helps you become more independent.”