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International horticulture student gaining knowledge to bring back home

by Public Relations and Marketing | Published Apr 28, 2022

On a 45-acre farm in Mexico, Saul Rico and his family have been growing pomegranates and corn for generations.

Photo of Saul Rico and Melanie Bromberek at the campus farm greenhouse“My great grandfather, grandfather and father were always recognized for their farm work,” Rico said. “I started working in the agriculture field without having any knowledge of the field. I started driving farm equipment and learning about plants, and I began to research how to produce and take care of plants as living beings.”

Photo: Saul Rico (left) and horticulture lab coordinator Melanie Bromberek working in the Grayslake Campus greenhouse.

At 36 years old, Rico did everything on the family farm from pruning, to running the tractor and putting in irrigation systems. He started looking for short-term educational programs to enroll in because he wanted to learn more.

He couldn’t find a program in Mexico that took less than five years to complete, but family members who lived in Lake County told him about the horticulture program at College of Lake County (CLC). In the winter of 2022, Rico enrolled and began his classes at CLC.

Rico’s goal is to take the knowledge he gains at CLC back to his own community where he hopes to make farming more efficient and sustainable.

Being an international student comes with its challenges, Rico said, including fitting in in a new place.

“The biggest challenge was the language, which has been a complicated process,” Rico said. “The culture and food are different here, and sometimes I get homesick. It gets easier every day.”

CLC has resources available to ensure international students succeed while studying away from their home country. Rico’s favorites are the Language Lab and the tutoring and writing centers which help him improve his English.

While studying horticulture, Rico works as a student intern at the Grayslake Campus Farm. The farm gives him hands-on experience that adds to what he learns in the classroom.

Rico has learned a lot of valuable information during his time at CLC that he has already started to tell his family.

“I’ve learned a lot about hormones and microorganisms,” he said. “I’ve been telling my dad different ways to use them to reproduce pomegranates. It’s something we’d never done before.”

Rico has had a very good experience in the United States and at CLC.

“I’d recommend CLC as a place for international students to study,” Rico said. “The professors are amazing, the buildings are great and everyone is kind to me all the time.”

About College of Lake County

College of Lake County is a comprehensive community college committed to equitable high-quality education, cultural enrichment and partnerships to advance the diverse communities it serves in northeastern Illinois. Offered at three campuses in Grayslake, Vernon Hills and Waukegan or online, college classes are affordable and accessible to help each student achieve academic, career and personal goals. More than 70,000 students graduated with degrees and certificates since the college opened in 1969. College of Lake County is the only higher-education institution ranked among the top 15 best places to work in Illinois by Forbes and is a national leader in many areas, including sustainability and conservation.