Christian Popa “I’ve gone to a lot of schools, including universities back home and here. But as far as colleges go, SMC blows everybody out of the water.”

‘Pilot’ is not a major that SMC prepares people for. But consider learning a different language: Italian, German, Chinese. Then think of using that language way beyond the level of most native speakers. Christian Popa, from Romania, is as facile and adroit with the English language as he is when he’s in the cockpit of his own aircraft. Thus, in language, flight, and education, he’s truly a ‘pilot’; always ‘pushing the envelope.’

“When I first came to SMC, I quickly realized that it’s one of the best colleges in the nation, or even the entire world. It’s obvious that this college has extremely high standards when it comes to hiring professors,” says Christian. “And I can tell you how to get the most ‘juice’ out of your classes. See as many counselors as you can when you first get here. A lot of kids only wake up to what they should be doing after three or four semesters. Counselors are there to help you define your direction. It’s just a shame to waste the great opportunities at SMC.”

One great opportunity that Christian himself missed is one he’s not likely to ever forget. “I used to wrestle for the Romanian Olympic team, and I was supposed to wrestle in Sydney, but then I got injured,” he recalls with regret. But Christian feels fortunate indeed to now live in America. “When I left home, it was just after the Communist era, and the economy was pretty much a shamble,” he states. “I had a lot of friends who were doctors and engineers, and they were working for maybe $150 a month. And I suspect the situation is still much the same. But here, I can get together with some other investors, buy three or four planes, and fly wherever I want to go in the world.”

Read more stories from present and past years in the SMC Student Spotlight Archive.