International Student Spotlight: Q&A with Jose Ramirez

Gabby Martinez, Staff Writer

Jose Ramirez. Photo by Gabby Martinez/RooNews.

  Jose Ramirez is a 29-year-old international student studying for his doctorate in musical performance with the UMKC Conservatory. He is from Medellín, Colombia, and the youngest of three children in his family. Here are his thoughts on being an international student, playing the violin and cultural differences.

Out of all the options, why did you choose to study at UMKC?  

  Money. UMKC offered a more competitive scholarship package than the other 2 schools I applied to. Also, my violin professor is very good.

What is your favorite spot at UMKC?

  The recreation center. I work there, and I think it’s a really cool space. I can talk to people, workout and do homework. I really enjoy my time there.

When did you know you wanted to study violin full-time?

  I decided around 12 years old. That’s when I first started playing. I formally started studying music when I took my pre-reqs in Colombia and decided I would continue following that path. I didn’t know it was a trap.

What is your favorite song to play?

  That is a very hard question for a musician. Every piece that you are playing has to be your favorite piece, if you want to perform it very well. I don’t have a favorite, but I love every piece that I’m playing right now. For me, even if there’s a piece I don’t initially like or understand, I end up falling in love with it.

What’s it like playing as a violin substitute with the Kansas City Symphony?

  I’ve played in about 6 concerts since I auditioned last August, and it has been a really cool experience for me to play in a professional orchestra here in this country. It’s at a very high level, and you make good music. It’s been my most memorable experience here.

What do you miss most about Medellín, Colombia?

  Of course I miss my family, but something else I miss is the food. The variety we have, and the fruit juices. I miss the arepas. It’s like a pancake here, but with a different flavor. I also miss the traditional dish of my city, Bandeja paisa. It’s very heavy but so good. Something else I miss about my city is the weather. It is almost always 70-75 degrees. When it’s cold, it’s only in the 50s. When it’s cold here, it is very cold.

What are the biggest cultural differences you’ve noticed since moving to the U.S.?

  I think the most challenging thing for me to learn was the difference in personal space. I think the space we have here is very good, and very respectful. But in Colombia, everyone hugs each other and is very friendly. When we greet a person, we kiss his cheek. Here there is much more distance, so that was a big difference for me to learn. 

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve seen in the U.S.?

  Something that caught my attention was the amount of cars in the city. Everyone has one. If you don’t have one, you’re gonna suffer. That’s my life. 

What advice would you give other students who are looking to study internationally?

  Don’t do it. I’m just kidding. I think every person coming from a different country has to be very open minded. Try to learn about everything. It’s a good adventure.

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