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Coming from the small town of Los Fresnos, I have always been used to living in a small community where I knew where everything was and it took only a few minutes to get where I needed to be. But the idea of living in a larger city intrigued me.

As a child, my family and I would frequently visit San Antonio for vacations. We would always enjoy seeing the tourist sights of the downtown area and eating at the different restaurants. So, when it came time to choose where to attend college, I knew exactly where I wanted to go.

St. Mary’s University, with more than 3,300 students in 75 programs, was a college that I had heard about in high school from students who had siblings or parents who attended in the past. After hearing so many wonderful accounts, I decided to check out the school for myself. After setting foot on campus and actually seeing it in person, I knew that this was where I would spend the next four years of my academic career. 

The northwest San Antonio campus has a cozy feel to it, with plenty of greenery and little animals that roam about, such as possums, squirrels and the beloved campus cats that don’t seem to mind the students’ presence. All the buildings are close together, so it’s not a long distance to walk to each class. The University Center — home to Diamondback Café, the Barnes & Noble at St. Mary’s University Bookstore, and the Career and Professional Development Center — is in the middle of it all.

I tend to spend most of my time in a small open area with picnic tables and pecan trees called The Quad, which is located near the library where students will pass to get to classes. I enjoy sitting out in the peace and quiet when getting my work done while listening to the sound of the birds and the wind. The Cotrell Learning Commons, a common area within the Blume Library, is also a go-to spot since there are plenty of seats and empty tables. There’s also a Starbucks coffee shop located there for the times when you need a little boost while studying for a test or writing an essay. 

I am a proud English major with minors in both political science and visual communications at St. Mary’s. Though I started out as a political science major, I soon figured out that I really wanted to be a writer. It was a smooth transition since English was already my minor, and since I had taken so many political science classes, I qualified for a minor. Now, I am well on my way to graduating. 

Jayden Mendez reads Frankenstein in a common area inside her dorm room building in St. Mary’s University.
Jayden Mendez reads Frankenstein in a common area in her St. Mary’s University dorm. Credit: Brenda Bazán / San Antonio Report

For my English major, I am taking a fiction writing workshop and studying the literature of the Western world. For my minors, I have taken classes pertaining to topics in political behavior. And for my visual communications minor, I have taken graphic design and art classes. My aim is to one day get my Master of Fine Arts in screenwriting and write for movies or television shows. I have always had a fascination with animation and storytelling, so I figured that this was the perfect area of study for me to understand the basics of art and writing.

Thanks to its smaller size, St. Mary’s is a tight-knit community with a strong sense of togetherness. A variety of on-campus events help students get to know one another and foster a sense of community.

Every other week, student organizations host interactive events, such as trivia nights or making your own stuffed animals or DIY tote bags. I remember when the university brought therapy dogs to campus during midterms. My friends and I went and were able to take a break from our studies to spend time with the dogs and each other.

The most prominent event at St. Mary’s takes place in April when not only students but also people from the community are invited to celebrate Fiesta Oyster Bake on campus. The annual music and food festival — which began more than 100 years ago — is an important part of the St. Mary’s culture because it attracts people from all over to attend and socialize with one another over food, fun and music, all while raising money for student scholarships and university programs.

Jayden Mendez gets a fried chicken on a stick at the Fiesta Oyster Bake.
Jayden Mendez gets a fried chicken on a stick at the Fiesta Oyster Bake. Credit: Brenda Bazán / San Antonio Report

I’m not one to leave campus much since there’s so much to do on campus. However, I have had the chance to explore the West Side of San Antonio, and it is a nice area. Nearby, there are small local restaurants and boba shops to visit. There are a few locally owned Mexican and Chinese restaurants that have a wonderful atmosphere and food. The area around St. Mary’s reminds me of my hometown of Los Fresnos, with its large Hispanic community that takes pride in its culture. 

The experience that I have had in San Antonio, specifically St. Mary’s, is one that I have quite enjoyed. I have made new friends, explored topics that interest me and am on my way to becoming a writer with the help of my advisor and other staff. I can’t wait to see what else lies ahead. 

Headshot of Jayden Mendez.

Jayden Mendez

Jayden Mendez is an English major and political science and visual communications minor at St. Mary’s University.