The road less traveled: Tegucigalpa to West Lafayette
Nelson Frech came from a family of passionate lawyers and business managers in Honduras, but it was his father’s shift away from retail business and into the real estate industry when he was a child that laid the foundation for a Purdue engineer-to-be.
Frech was closely involved in construction projects with his family’s real estate company in Tegucigalpa, and witnessing the erection of several residential and commercial projects while growing up nurtured his interest in the industry. In sixth grade, he knew he wanted to be an engineer.
Choosing Purdue University was easy, he says. Frech knew he wanted to study at a high-caliber post-secondary school with a large international student body as well as ample extracurricular and professional opportunities. “When I decided to study construction engineering, I was able to narrow down to a handful of universities,” he says. “But when I visited Purdue, the evident school spirit on campus leaned my acceptance toward what I now am able to call my alma mater.” Frech completed two bachelor’s degrees and a minor in August 2017 and is now a proud Boilermaker for life.
During high school, Frech attended an international school that mirrored education in the United States. At school, he spoke English. At home, he spoke Spanish. On paper, he was perfectly prepared for undergraduate studies in America. What he was not prepared for, however, was leaving his home, family, and friends to move thousands of miles away and start a new life.
“Growing outside of my comfort zone was not an option,” Frech says. “It was a necessity.” While he enjoyed and welcomed the familiarity of speaking Spanish with fellow Latin Americans at Purdue, it was not until he found the Construction Engineering and Management (CEM) program that everything in his world truly seemed to fall into place. After meeting CEM staff and students at the first engineering fair of his freshman year, Frech knew it was the right fit.
“The CEM program provided the small school feeling and the attention one wishes to have as part of an undergraduate body of approximately 30,000 students,” he says. “Some of my favorite memories at Purdue include the annual internship banquet sponsored by CEM’s Beta Tau Honor Fraternity, cookouts and ice cream socials with the program, and pizza gatherings in the CEM office.”
It was here at Purdue that Frech found his second home. CEM provided him with a family, and he made new friends through several student organizations. He was an active member and officer in Construction Engineers of the Future and Beta Tau Honor Fraternity, participated in the Rotaract service club and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, played racquetball and learned to play golf, and even ran a campaign for Purdue Student Government his junior year.
“I pursued the presidency of the student government, and—although not elected—I am rewarded by the friendships I created, the lessons I learned, and the life-changing experiences the journey made me face,” he says. His “silver linings” outlook is something he carries with him through life.
Frech’s undergraduate years at Purdue offered him more than he had ever hoped to gain from his college experience. In four years’ time, he graduated from one of the most prestigious universities in the world with a Bachelor of Science in Construction Engineering, a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and a minor in Management, and he secured a full-time position with his internship company, F.A. Wilhelm Construction.
“It is not these achievements, but adventuring in them and taking the road less traveled that makes me the proudest,” says Frech. “After every year passes, I find that Purdue and the Greater Lafayette Area are slowly becoming a new home to me, warm in spirit even while frigid cold in the harshest days of winter.”