International student profile: Gabrielle Aguilera

Story by Luisa-Maria Michiu, Reporter
Image courtesy of Gabrielle Aguilera

All the way from San Juan, Puerto Rico, first-year Gabrielle Aguilera is very eager to learn about the American culture and see what it has in store for her as she steps away from her colorful Puerto Rican culture for a few years.

When I asked Aguilera what brought her to Aquinas, she replied, “I just heard about it at a school fair and I checked it out. I wanted a new experience, something different from my tropical home, and this is very different, so I guess I succeeded.”

Aguilera is very confident about her education here in the states. She claimed, “I’m definitely going to a law school somewhere. It is still not clear on which state I want it, but law is in my future.”

As I talked more with Aguilera, I learned that her father has been an enormous inspiration in her life, and this led to the aspiration of following in his footsteps with her Federal Law and International Business studies.

I was curious to learn not only about Aguilera, but about the cultural differences that she has experienced thus far. In terms of a general difference amongst the Puerto Rican and American culture, Aguilera states the following: “Technically Puerto Rico is an American territory, so I’ve been in the U.S. all my life. I’ve discovered that overall, living in the mainland is not very different. What is a little bit different though is the people.”

I asked Aguilera to elaborate more on this topic as I was very curious as to what she meant by this. She continues, “I’ve been to other parts of the country, but I haven’t been in this situation until I came to Michigan, where I found it more prominent – people’s attitudes are a bit different. People in Puerto Rico are a lot warmer and somewhat more playful. The only way I can describe them is that they live in colors, whereas the people in Michigan, it’s not that they are duller, it’s just that they’re colder, plastering a faint smile of kindness. I do believe you should be kind and nice, but only if you feel it in your heart. The Puerto Ricans are more direct with feelings and I personally prefer that.”

Even though that warm and vibrant Latino atmosphere is absent in Aguilera’s presence for the time being, she can agree that everyone here is eminently inclusive and welcoming. She feels honored telling people about her culture and is relieved of the fact that the naiveness that she imagined herself encountering amongst the people proved her wrong.

When I asked Aguilera about the pros and cons of living in the U.S, she claims that people are better drivers in the U.S. and she glorifies the fact that there is a wide range of possibilities in terms of road trips.

She stated, “In the mainland, you can go North or South for a few hundred miles and you’ll be in a completely different place– different weather, different culture.”

As for the cons, Aguilera wishes that the scenery was more exotic and there was more beaches. “The streets all look the same. I’m used to every house and street looking different than the previous one. In Puerto Rico, we basically just want to flaunt our culture on to whoever wants to hear us out on it.”

Hearing Aguilera talk about her vibrant Puerto Rican culture was extremely fascinating. I’ve learned so much! She, as well, is looking forward to learning more about the American culture in these upcoming years.

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