After completing an undergraduate degree in music education in Ecuador, Ariana Abadia sang for the Ecuadorian Sucre National Theatre and studied Italian in hopes of traveling to Italy to perform. All of that changed one afternoon when her father came home and told her he’d enrolled each of them in BYU-Pathway Worldwide; where they could pursue a certificate or degree by taking courses delivered in English.
“At first, I was like, ‘Why would you do that? I don’t want to learn English,’” she recalls. “But my dad reminded me I needed to learn English if I was going to be a singer.”
That was the beginning of her journey to Provo, Utah, where armed with faith and a passion for music, she left her beloved homeland in Ecuador to study vocal performance at BYU.
Arriving in Utah with feelings of uncertainty, she says she felt peace as she gazed out the train window during the ride from Salt Lake City to Provo. “The first thing I remember seeing as I came here from the airport was all the temples,” she said. “That was awesome, and it gave me strength.”
Abadia now admits that it was her enrollment in BYU-Pathway that paved the way for her graduate study. But, she says, she was initially reluctant to attend the BYU-Pathway classes with her father. “It was so difficult because everything was in English and it was taught so different from how I had learned in high school,” she said. They’d spend “three or four hours a day” studying and practicing their vocabulary.
Persistence paid off and Abadia’s English improved thanks to loving teachers. “Everyone was so thoughtful and respectful; I could make mistakes in a safe environment and keep learning,” she said.
With newfound confidence, Abadia explored graduate schools in the United States to further her music career. BYU wasn’t initially on her shortlist, but she followed an impression to consider coming to Provo.
“I searched BYU’s music program, and I loved it. I wanted to do it,” she says. Undeterred by the rigorous admissions process and TOEFL test score requirements, Abadia diligently studied English and honed her vocal talents as she prepared to audition.
When notification of acceptance to BYU came, she literally jumped for joy.
Thanks to generous donors and scholarships, Abadia, now in her second year of study, is thriving at BYU. But acclimating to student life in a new country wasn’t without challenges.
“My first class I didn’t understand anything,” she said. “The music was taught differently than how I learned, and I couldn’t understand what my professor was saying when we were all wearing masks.”
She remembers calling her parents after class and telling them that she didn’t think she’d be successful. Making friends was difficult due to language and cultural barriers.
She found support from caring professors who offered help and guidance outside of class. “All of the teachers took care of me that first semester. One teacher helped me with a project that was really rough,” she remembered. She finished that class with an A. “I can feel the love of every one of my teachers.”
She found friends and fellowship by attending a Spanish-speaking ward in Provo and enjoyed interacting with the Saints. “When I was there, that changed my life. I really felt like this was a place for me,” she said. “I remember leaving church one Sunday after making friends and we already had plans to meet up during the week. I felt so welcome and so much connection.”
Now a seasoned BYU student, Abadia speaks confidently and clearly, exuding a light that’s reflective of her love for Jesus Christ and the transformative experience she’s had at BYU. “I am so blessed to be at BYU,” she says with a smile. “Teaching and learning music and working on campus helps me become the person I am. I know I belong here now.”
"My professors and my friends are my family when I’m here and I don’t feel alone anymore. This university has given me so much and I want to show that same love and effort to everything I do.”
At BYU, Abadia says she has strengthened her complete character and she’s eager to use her talents to extend love and hope. She envisions returning to Ecuador to help shape the country’s music curriculum and make an education in the arts more accessible to students; maybe even starting a school to teach voice to young students.
“I want to help change how arts are viewed in Ecuador. Right now, arts are a hobby and not a profession,” she says. “I would love to create a school and a theater for people who want to study voice or orchestra and dance. Music and art connect us as humans, and I want to help my country have more of that.”
For now, Abadia is focused on becoming the best singer she can and knows the Lord will guide her future.
“My professors and my friends are my family when I’m here and I don’t feel alone anymore,” she says. “This university has given me so much and I want to show that same love and effort to everything I do."