Duquesne University is a private, Catholic university located in the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The university has over 10,000 students and is considered a research university by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

SchoolApply interviewed Duquesne University senior, Sebastian Narvaez Medina, to learn more about the university and all it has to offer international students.


Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA)

Student Name: Sebastian Narvaez Medina

Age: 21

From: Colombia

Expected Graduation: May 2018  

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Favourite class: Homeland Security 406. Emergency management has always been one of my interests; I enjoy working under pressure, as well as learning how to handle situations in which millions of people are depending on you and your management and assessment skills. While taking this class, I was also able to obtain four different certificates from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Favourite Event: The Matriculation Ceremony.  This event formally marks new students’ entry into the university. During matriculation there is a blessing, class pins are distributed, and sometimes Bishop Zubik offers a prayer. This is a special event where the entire community gathers together to welcome the newbies.

A few words to describe Duquesne University: Diverse, Embracing, Sensational, Spiritual, Excellent.

Duquesne has helped me grow spiritually and its openness to accept individuals of all religions and cultures, the school has also given me the opportunity to engage in purposeful inter-religious dialogue.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your school experiences before joining Duquesne University?

I was born in Santiago de Cali, Colombia and have lived in Bogotá, Santiago de Chile, and Paris. I am fluent in Spanish, English, and French and know some elementary Portuguese. I am lucky enough to have visited over 40 countries around the world.  

I travelled a lot when I was younger and attended international schools so I had the opportunity for many cultural exchanges with people from all around the world. In this regard, Duquesne University is the perfect fit for me. As a Catholic Institution, one of the pillars of Duquesne is the exchange of values through diversity and respect for other cultures.

What made you decide to study in the United States?

In the United States, the opportunity to intern and study at the same time is an integral part of the educational system – you do not find this in most other places. The US has a diverse curriculum where, despite what you major in, you are also responsible for other subjects because this education system works on the premise that all areas of science, arts, and humanities are correlated. Diversity is a priority in US education; students come from all around the country and the world to study here, making the intercultural exchange altogether more enriching.

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What are you studying at Duquesne University?

I am currently pursuing a double major in Political Science and International Relations. I have always wanted to understand how the world operates. I have come to realise that interpersonal, inter-corporate, and intergovernmental relations all involve political interests and these are the things that define world dynamics. Normally people think politics is only about government, but it is a common misconception - politics are actually everywhere!  

Did you have any difficulty adjusting to life in the US or at Duquesne?

I did not have any issues adapting to my new life here at Duquesne for many reasons. First, having lived in many different places has helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses - once you know these qualities about yourself, it is easier to adapt and relate to different circumstances. In addition to this, Duquesne University offers many tools and resources to make one’s stay here as enjoyable as possible. Also, overall, I have to say Pittsburgh is a friendly city where people are genuinely interested in your background, opinions, and values.

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As an international student, what is your opinion of the academic and social scene at Duquesne University?

As a Catholic institution, Duquesne has helped me grow spiritually and its openness to accept individuals of all religions and cultures, the school has also given me the opportunity to engage in purposeful inter-religious dialogue.

Another advantage of attending Duquesne is its location in Downtown Pittsburgh. Everything you need is close to campus and within walking distance. Stores and restaurants are nearby and many internship programs are offered by corporations based in the downtown area. For example, I interned at the Office of the Honourable Mayor William Peduto for one year. During that year, I was able to travel between my classes and office within minutes as the city county building is only two blocks away from campus. The city also offers various cultural exchanges and interesting initiatives for locals and internationals.

Overseas students can depend on the wonderful resources provided by Duquesne University to feel more at home in their new environment, such as the International Student Organization (ISO) and the Cultural Ambassadors. ISO hosts several events throughout the year such as mixers, ISO night, dances, intercultural dinners and much more. Also, every international student is assigned to a Cultural Ambassador during their first year who helps them navigate the new culture and environment.

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What extracurricular activities did you take part in at Duquesne University?

I have participated in the Student Government Association which oversees all the campus organisations, activities, constructions, and student concerns. I also joined the International Student Organization and the Latin American Student Association. I am part of the campus ministry organization and I worked many years in the Residence Life Department as a Resident Assistant. Finally, last year I was appointed as the first Director of International Orientation at Duquesne University.

You have had several work experiences while studying at Duquesne, which job has impacted you the most?

I have held many jobs while at Duquesne, but I think the most stimulating was when I was working for the Mayor of Pittsburgh, Mr William Peduto. Being a part of the political spectrum, attending meetings and press conferences, policy drafting, and much more made it an amazing internship experience. The internship was officially only for six months, but I was so involved and interested that they allowed me to stay on for longer!

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How has Duquesne University prepared you for life after college?

My studies at Duquesne support my interests and talents. I believe that two of my best skills are verbal communication and public speaking and I have had many opportunities to practice these skills at Duquesne. From class discussions to contests, students are encouraged to speak freely to others and engage in meaningful dialogue. I have also had many enriching experiences connected to my field of study, such as having conferences with the Cuban Ambassador, General Hayden, and the grandson of Ghandi.

The intellectual exchange that takes place here is amazing, however, most importantly, Duquesne teaches you that nothing will be fulfilling if you aren’t a good human being. Sharing with others and being compassionate is part of both your professional and a personal life.

How would you describe your overall experience at Duquesne University?   

My college experience has been like a plane ride. Take-off and landing are always the hardest part, but once you are airborne things are relatively easy.  

Take off is hard because it’s like starting from the bottom. You have to memorize names, make new friends, get to know professors, perfect your English skills, and find your way around campus. Doing all these things together can be tedious, but once you get through them all, the difficulty factor fades away.

Soon after I started at Duquesne, I realised how accepting, kind, and gentle this college community is – the university’s core values went beyond my expectations. In terms of academics, the professors are amazing and impart knowledge in ways I have never experienced. Duquesne professors have been out in the field and understand their responsibility to shape and educate the young minds that attend the university.

Finally, landing can be as rough as take off. It is a tricky transition because once you fall in love with this place, you don’t ever want to leave! College experience has been so good, and it is passing by so fast. The knowledge I acquired, the friends I have, and the memories we have shared can never be taken away from me.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Duquesne University click on its SchoolApply profile page and apply now!