Every time Diego Molina has packed up his belongings and headed to a new town, he has always been sure he was moving toward something better.
Three years ago, he put away his luggage for good after making the journey from tropical Colombia, South America, to snowcapped Colorado, and finally to the Central Valley.
Molina, who works as a facilities assistant for UC Merced, said in the town and at the university, he has found a place he can call home.
“I knew that the University of California would be a good place to work at,” said Molina, 25.
Even before the university opened, Molina had his hands in everything. He was one of only four people in the facilities department. On a typical day he would act as locksmith, clean-up crew, mail carrier and everything in between.
Now that the campus is up and running and the number of coworkers has grown to 50, Molina can be found at the shipping-and-receiving department at Castle Airport in Atwater.
Having some breathing room is a welcomed change of pace, he said, but lately, the Atwater branch is feeling a little empty. Most students and staff moved to their permanent locations on the main campus.
“I miss them walking around and talking to them. We are trying to move there but there isn't a receiving area yet,” he said.
He doesn't have to miss them for long, though.
A soccer enthusiast, Molina makes his way to the main campus every Friday to play on a small soccer league with the coeds.
His love of sports and his strong work ethic are just a few of the qualities Molina brought with him from his native Columbia.
Molina's family moved to Denver five years ago from South America to be near relatives. He soon found work at the local airport and remembers a particularly bad snow storm that blanketed the city.
“We couldn't go to work for three days,” he said. That kind of weather - plus the traffic - convinced him to pack up and head west.
His family followed suit and arrived in Merced a few months ago.
He doesn't regret the moves he made, especially now that he has his parents for support, and Molina wants to keep moving forward in his ambitions, too.
He's hoping to work his way from facilities to being an electronic engineer in the campus's IT Department.
“That is what I really want to do,” he said.