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Ambassadors for cultural education
But they also feel empowered to do something about it. “I want to raise awareness about all these stereotypes,” said Kristen. “Every country is beautiful in its own way. Colombia is gorgeous and has all these pretty mountains. People don’t know about it because they just think about the negative. But that isn’t what defines a country.”
Arianna, who wants to teach South American and Central American history, agreed. “People think it’s unsafe. But I still want to go back.”
Instead of rejecting a country for its unsavory attributes, Kristen and Arianna embrace their Colombian heritage.
“It’s fun to have an ethnicity to be proud of,” shared Kristen. “I love that I can tan easily, and people say we have the most beautiful hair! My friends back in high school never knew what they were. They were like, ‘I’m white.’ ‘Well what does that mean? Are you German? Are you Swedish?’ They wouldn’t know.”
Arianna summarized, “Everybody has a culture, but not everybody knows it.”
Opportunities for a future
Kristen describes what it means to appreciate her Colombian heritage and be grateful for the opportunities she has in the U.S. “I love that I can celebrate a culture that I know about, but I can be in Minnesota celebrating it rather than anywhere else. We have the best of both worlds being at college, getting a higher education that we might not have gotten if we were back in Colombia.”
Arianna added, “The opportunities [in Colombia] are much narrower than they are here. You look at what those children have, and some of them have absolutely nothing. Here we get a chance to grow.”
Though only a few months into their college education, they have dreams that involve their culture and each other. “I foresee mission trips and study abroad trips for both of us, maybe, hopefully together,” said Arianna.
Kristen, who studied abroad in Costa Rica in high school and stays in close contact with her host family, has a goal to return to that country and help the community. “I would love to go help out there and also Colombia, to make a difference in my birth country,” she said. “I want to help out with the orphanages. I’m hoping to do that through Spanish and whatever else I end up doing in my career.”
For now, Arianna and Kristen are adjusting to college life and thankful for the support of each other’s friendship.
“It’s just a great thing knowing that there’s someone else that knows what it’s like,” said Kristen. “I know that there’s someone that can relate.”
“I am so happy that I came to know [Kristen], and I am so glad that we connected,” said Arianna. “I really don’t think that I would have opened up as much if I didn’t have her here. By God’s grace it came to be.”
It's happened before
Arianna and Kristen aren’t the first students to make a global personal connection at Northwestern. At Multicultural Orientation three years ago, Bernice Fernandes ’13 and Miriam Navamanie ’13 found out they were born in the same hospital in Kenya.
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