Sophomore Nathaly Loyola-Rodriguez can already picture herself reminiscing on the good times.

Jumping to “Enter Sandman” in Lane Stadium. Climbing mountains. Joining a club. Meeting new friends. Watching movies at a local theatre.

But she almost didn’t enroll at Virginia Tech.

Loyola-Rodriguez has dual citizenship in the United States and Peru. She was born in Northern Virginia but moved during childhood to her parents’ birthplace.

After graduating from high school, she began her college experience internationally. She soon realized she wanted to return to her Virginia roots.

“I was looking at so many schools,” she said. “I wanted to find somewhere with diversity and the right major for me.”

When she received her acceptance letter from Virginia Tech, she was ecstatic.

“I was so happy,” she said. “But on the other hand, I was worried about my financial situation.”

Enter the  Virginia Tech Beyond Boundaries Scholars program.

The program doubles the impact of qualifying scholarship gifts that help underrepresented and high-achieving students. Each gift is matched dollar for dollar by Virginia Tech.

Loading player for

A first-generation student, Loyola-Rodriguez transferred to Virginia Tech last fall after learning she’d been accepted into the program.

“Honestly, if it hadn’t been for the Beyond Boundaries Scholars program, I wouldn’t be here,” said Loyola-Rodriguez.

She said she has appreciated the opportunity to get to know the donors who support the program. She’s also written letters thanking them for their support.

A political science major in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Loyola-Rodriguez is focused on national security and foreign affairs. She’s taken courses that have sparked her interest in working in the field, potentially for the U.S. Department of State.

“One of my favorite classes I’m currently taking is world politics,” she said, “and it’s because of my teacher.”

The class is taught by Courtney Thomas, a collegiate assistant professor in the Department of Political Science.

“She’s super cool,” said Loyola-Rodriguez. “She’s been so patient with me, and she explains history like she’s telling you a story.”

Outside of the classroom, Loyola-Rodriguez enjoys spending time with friends exploring campus and the local community. She also has hobbies, such as singing, playing her ukulele, painting, and photography.

She’s a member of Latin Link, a student organization on campus that promotes Hispanic heritage through cultural, educational, and social activities.

She cherishes the fun memories she’s made and looks forward to many more.

“Going to college feels like a big experience,” she said. “But it’s the small things that I’m going to remember when I look back on my time here. When I came to Virginia Tech, I realized there’s a world that I don’t know. And I feel like Virginia Tech opened this new chapter in my life.”

Loyola-Rodriguez offered advice for high school students interested in higher education but concerned about finances.

“My advice would be to remember you have so many opportunities for support,” she said.

She remembers attending her first meeting with fellow Beyond Boundaries Scholars and identifying with many of their stories.

“Beyond Boundaries does a great job of giving opportunities to first-generation students and students who couldn’t afford college,” she said. “To come here and study, to have a great education — it’s beautiful.”

Written by Andrew Adkins