International Student Pursues Passion for Film at PSU

Many people live their entire lives in just one country, some just one city. But not Sebastian Suarez Hode. Originally born in Honduras, his family moved to Mozambique when he was ten years old for his father’s job. After high school, he chose Portland State University and moved 10,000 miles away from his family and friends to pursue his passion for filmmaking. 

Sebastian wanted to study somewhere that had opportunities for growth and success, but not in a city so big he couldn’t overcome the competitive atmosphere in the industry. When I asked him how he knew his future was in the film industry, he said his passion was ignited when he started practicing photography in high school. “I realized I had a talent. Lots of people complimented my work so I began to pursue it further,” explained Hode. I loved the confidence. The focus of his work transformed over time into documentary work. His interests were unlimited; he would research anything from local news to nature, to community services, and charity work.

The thing that drew him to PSU to study film was the benefit of the surrounding city of Portland. “There are lots of up and coming productions here, which is great for a film student.” As we all know, the show “Portlandia” recently brought a ton of attention to the city and built a reputation as a unique place, known for weird, quirky people, who have an obsession with brunch, organic vegan cuisine and SUVs to transport excessive camping gear. “The city is what made the decision for me to attend PSU. Portland is your classroom. It is a great background for subjects in film and photography. It’s a fun, cool city, with close proximity to cool nature like the high desert region, mountains, and beaches along the coast. I can even get on the city train and in 20 minutes I can get to the massive Forest Park.”

Not just for creative pursuits, he says the city had the added benefit and convenience of getting around on public transportation. “The city is easy to navigate and you don’t need a car.” (PSU students can ride the TriMet Streetcar for free with your PSU ID!) “PSU is in the center of downtown, so everything you need is right nearby.”
However, this transition was definitely a huge challenge and the move was intimidating. He arrived in the city not knowing a single person. He was completely on his own and had no family in the United States. For his freshman year, he lived in a dorm on campus where he was able to make friends. “Campus housing places you in dorms with people who you have classes with, so you can make friends easier. Living in a dorm was a great introduction to college because it fosters a tight-knit community.”

He told me the story of the first friends he made at PSU. While waiting in line for the first event on the first day of orientation, he just started making conversation with the other nervous students in line next to him. By the time they got to the front of the line, they were laughing and joking like old friends. “This experience is such a classic college story, but it’s representative of my whole experience at PSU. People will say ‘hi’ to you right away and communicate with you in meaningful ways. The campus is so welcoming and open-minded. The friends I made that day are still some of my closest friendships.”

I learned so much about the School of Film during our interview. Sebastian is working on a Bachelor of Science in Film, but PSU also offers a Bachelor of Arts. He says the difference is in the material you study. The B.S. focuses more on the math and science stuff, while the B.A. focuses on the humanities aspect. Who knew.

His education goal, in addition to graduating with a degree in film, is to come out of school with connections in the industry. “All the professors here at PSU are already working in the field and they help students come out of college with professional connections. All the skills I need are taught in school, but in this industry, the most valuable thing is to know others.”

In addition to classes, Sebastian works on campus in the Undergraduate Admissions office. He is an International Admissions Representative and helps prospective PSU students navigate application and immigration requirements. You can watch videos he made about why he chose PSU and an introduction to an international student at the School of Business!

We are so grateful for the global perspective that Sebastian brings to our community, not just Portland, but also the United States. He is such a driven and passionate student and this is reflected in his work. He made the brave decision to pursue a degree in another country and he enjoys spreading the word about his experience as an international student. If you are an international student and are considering PSU, contact one of our international student counselors to get started on your journey.