As someone who was born and raised in Colorado Springs, the only thing I wanted out of my college experience was to get out of this city and this state. I loved my upbringing and community but craved new experiences and faraway places. This desire landed me in Memphis, Tennessee, where I spent four years in a city and culture almost directly opposite of the one in which I grew up. I fell quickly in love with my majors of International Studies and Spanish, and these allowed me to explore Memphis through a different lens. The opportunities for collaboration were endless and pushed me to look beyond my own worldview. I am thankful for the lessons I learned there, and it felt like a natural next step to apply those lessons abroad.
As senior year approached, I applied for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship and Research Grant in Peru. I wanted an immersive Spanish experience and to fulfill a lifetime dream of living outside the U.S. I also wanted to experience independence both outside of academia and outside of my personal circles—going abroad felt like the only way to accomplish this. This mindset was radically and permanently changed, however, when I evacuated out of Arequipa, Peru to avoid a country-wide border closure thanks to COVID-19.
There is much more I could share about the experience of fleeing a foreign country during a pandemic but suffice it to say returning home was terrifying. I had no idea what I was going to do; however, Colorado Springs was here to welcome me home. I began to understand how complex my home had become—it was growing exponentially despite the pandemic, businesses were coming together in a beautiful display of solidarity and it felt like a gratifying time to be here. Even when the world shuttered itself, Colorado Springs rallied together. I felt safe: I felt like I was re-finding my place here.
As I begin my Fellowship at El Pomar, the feeling of coming home has strengthened even further. The resiliency of Colorado Springs and the state of Colorado through the pandemic inspired me to take a closer look at my beliefs. Philanthropy, empathy and understanding are values I hold near and dear, and it was clear that El Pomar shared these values even as I first began the Fellowship application process. When pursuing International Studies, it is natural to only apply theories and discussions to cases outside our own borders. COVID taught me, and I believe taught most of us, that global issues are closer than we like to admit. I felt as I re-engaged in my home state of Colorado that El Pomar offered the best avenue to help people on a macro level in a way I have yet to experience. Maybe one day I’ll return to Latin America, but with El Pomar I have found a place that feels like home once again.