Santiago Potes, a 2020 graduate of Columbia University, was only four years old when his parents fled Colombia and brought him to Miami, Florida, to start a new life. Now, Potes can call himself a Rhodes Scholar–the first Latino DACA recipient to ever be awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
While at Columbia University, Potes studied languages and became fluent in nine of them. According to the university newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, he was fluent in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Latin, Haitian Creole, Classical Chinese and Ancient Greek. He was also near-fluent in Mandarin and German.
“I think the reason why I became interested in languages is because I just felt—and, I know this is a strong word, but—incarcerated within the United States pretty much my entire life, and I still kind of do,” Potes told the paper. “I want to travel, to see the world.”
Potes will now get to do that as a 2021 Rhodes Scholar, a distinction that is only given to one percent of applicants who apply from all over the world. With the scholarship, Potes will now attend the University of Oxford in the U.K. where he plans to get his Master’s degree in international relations. His dream job is to work in national security or as a counselor in the U.S. government.
“I really want to inspire the next generation of Latino Rhodes Scholars—not even Rhodes Scholars, just Latinos,” he says. “I come from a very humble background, but that’s just the hand that I was dealt. If you play your cards right, you can do it, too.”