Jim Martinez didn’t know it at the time, but a study abroad trip to Southern Brazil in high school would lead him to the University of Idaho.
“That really emerged me in another culture, a different way of life, and then I saw that UI had the best international studies program,” Martinez said.
He said during the nine-month period he spent in Brazil, he was expected to study in public schools. Yet upon arrival, he knew little Portuguese.
“I knew how to count to 15, and I knew how to say ‘where is the bathroom,’ and ‘can I have a cold beer please,’ but that was pretty much it,” Martinez said. “I took notes, I took a lot of notes.”
Martinez said the experience abroad not only helped him grow as an individual, but also solidified his love for travel and new cultures.
Martinez will graduate from UI with a Bachelor of Arts in international studies with minors in Spanish and comparative politics.
He will be just one of the many students expected to cross the stage at the Spring Commencement Ceremony May 17 in the Kibbie Dome, and will be among the 1,715 set to receive diplomas statewide.
Coming from a small town in Southern Idaho, Martinez, who identifies as bisexual, said he was bullied throughout high school. He said the harassment got so bad that at one point he contemplated suicide, but overcame the feelings with the help and support of his best friend and older sisters.
Martinez wrote to four newspapers in Idaho last February. In his letter, he talked about his experience as a bisexual teen in Idaho.
He said the letter was in response to a bill proposed by Rep. Lynn Luker that would have allowed business owners to refuse service to customers if they offended their religious beliefs.
“State’s were starting to legally sanction discrimination, so that is why I kind of felt compelled to tell my story,” Martinez said.
He said he decided to come out after joining the Alpha Kappa Lambda Fraternity.
“Since coming out, it has been a weight off my shoulders, because I don’t have to hide,” Martinez said.
Martinez said it has been difficult dealing with incorrect stereotypes associated with bisexuality.
“They just assume that because someone says that they are bi they are actually a different thing,” Martinez said.
Martinez has been involved in student organizations, since his first year at UI when his fraternity brothers suggested he apply for the Student Alumni Relations Board.
Martinez said he enjoyed working at SArb so much he decided to get involved in the Homecoming Committee and began volunteering at ASUI. He said these organizations not only introduced him to a new social circle on campus, but allowed him to share his love for UI.
“All of them were just so much fun, so then I just wanted to be more involved,” Martinez said. “It was just a common bond that we had sharing a passion for the university.”
Martinez went on to serve as SArb president his sophomore and junior years, and was chair of the 2013 Homecoming Committee. Martinez also served as chief of staff for former ASUI President Hannah Davis during the 2012-2013 academic year.
He said he has always had a passion for leading organizations, and planning programs for his community.
“Being involved is my hobby, and being involved is also what I do for fun,” Martinez said. “I guess it’s my niche, and where I find people that are like minded.”
Katie Dahlinger, assistant director of Student Involvement, said she has seen Martinez grow as an individual, and develop a great passion for the student organizations on campus.
Dahlinger said Martinez has had a large impact on student organizations at UI, from reorganizing the Legislative Breakfast program to developing last year’s Homecoming theme, “Vandal Pride Planet Wide.”
She said Martinez cares for the organizations he is a part of, and puts a lot of effort toward success.
“When he sets his mind to something, he really wants it to be special,” Dahlinger said.
She said it is bittersweet saying goodbye to Martinez and so many other graduating seniors who have been so involved throughout their years at UI, but is excited to see their success after college.
Martinez said being involved in student organizations taught him to be more objective in his decision making, and allowed him to improve his leadership skills.
Martinez said juggling so many responsibilities left him mentally and physically drained at times.
“A lot of all-nighters, a lot of coffee,” Martinez said. “I would say, ‘I don’t know why I’m so damn hungry, my plate is already full.'”
As for his future plans, Martinez will spend 10 weeks studying abroad this summer in the Dominican Republic working with humanitarian organizations. He said he hopes to work with organizations dealing with at-risk youth, and is looking forward to the experience.
He said he wants to be a diplomat for the state department in his future, and plans to take the Foreign Service Officer test next February.
Ryan Tarinelli can be reached at email@example.com