Three months ago, Ricque Salgado Innes, 24, prepared for graduation from Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen. Like so many other students, she tried on the mortar board and the graduation gown. And, like so many other students about to be graduates, friends and family were assembled for photographs.
But graduation regalia was not the only focus of the photographs. There was more.
In the span of exactly two weeks, between May 12 and May 26, this reserved young woman, quietly spoken but as sturdy as steel, former AmeriCorps volunteer, child of a military family, and an alumna from Harker Heights High School Class of 2012, would also be posing in a wedding gown.
“We met in June 2015,” she said of meeting her fiance from Great Britain. “And we shared an interest in film, old movies, and travel. He wooed me with travel.”
Visiting England a total of five times since they’d first met and begun to get know each other, Ricque had been to Statford-on-Avon, the east and west coasts of the country, including Whitby and Blackpool, and began to see parts of the country that drew her close to it — and the man she loved.
Her mom, she said, laughing, had her own opinion after the third trip abroad to visit him.
“’He’d better propose to you,’” she said, describing her mother’s irritable edict. “We are a strict Catholic family. And there I was, going back and forth to be with this man they hadn’t met. And we had met online. They were very cautious about what I was getting myself into.”
Even as she entered the country with her passport, she remembers government officials asking in-depth questions of her including her boyfriend’s name, his parent’s names, and family members.
“Of course, I knew they were cautious because I was a woman traveling alone, and there’s such an elevated risk of trafficking, they obviously wanted me to be safe. I appreciate that.”
And it was on that trip — after an exhausting spiraling walk up the 366 miniscule stairs of the Belfry Tower near Bruges, Belgium — and a good many complaints about the challenging nature of the upward trek — that her then-fiance, Robert, 48, decided not to propose when they reached the top of the 272 foot 16th Century structure.
He waited until that evening, as they neared the ferry to return home. Walking beneath the centuries old windmills, next to the gentle lapping of the water against the moss covered canal that ran quietly alongside them, he waited for an opportune moment to catch her eye and propose.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh God,’” she said laughing. “Because that was the moment when everything became very real.”
In the months that followed, they planned.
She finished her undergraduate degree from Texas A&M-Central Texas, majoring in English in the College of Arts and Sciences, determined to move seamlessly into the same graduate program.
“There wasn’t time for a honeymoon,” she said stoically. “There was so much to do.”
So much, as she said, included a trip to the VFS Application Center in Houston where she would formally apply for a visa that would allow her to legally enter Great Britain and live with her new husband who had returned to his homeland less than a week later.
Allen Redmon, professor of English and film studies and chair of the Humanities Department at Texas A&M-Central Texas, has great respect for Salgado Innes.
“Ricque did an excellent job taking advantage of a flexible curriculum that allowed her to explore interests in linguistics and in film studies,” he said. “Her creative work was also featured in the fifth edition of our annual student publication, The Lookout.”
Keeping her eyes on the prize, Salgado Innes, has no plans to defer or in any way delay her pursuit of the graduate degree from Texas A&M-Central Texas.
“I hope to be able to pick up my coursework online,” she said. “Dr. Kirchoff and Dr. Redmon have assured me that they’ll work with me — even from abroad.”
And so, this Central Texas woman, reaches into the future, as it languidly rolls out beneath her feet, in a place she only imagined she would ever be.
“You know, you hear people fantasizing about living abroad or going overseas to live all the time, especially when you live so close to a military base,” she said, laughing. “Never in a million years did I think it would happen to me.”