Cruzando Fronteras: I am from Bolivia

Ramona Whittaker

Staff Writer

rkwhittaker@goshen.edu

When I arrived at Goshen College, the first experience I had as a student was participating in the
orientation for international students, where I met people from countries like Nepal, India, Ecuador,
France, and others, My go-to introduction that day was “Hello, my name is Ramona and I’m from
Bolivia.” Even though my parents are from the United States, I identify as Latina, and among students of
varied cultures and languages, I felt profound pride in my own culture and heritage as well gratitude for
the chance to express it. As a very young child, I never thought that I might want to leave the town I
grew up in; I loved climbing among the branches of the mango trees around my house, running through
the schoolyard, playing “aliali” with my friends and dipping bits of bread in the sweet tea made by my
Mami Carmen.
But with time and the growing sensation that I needed to know and learn more if I really wanted to
make a difference, I had left behind the yard and the cows and the races along the red dirt roads, and
now I was here, talking with people from different countries who had done the same thing. When I
came here I couldn’t imagine that it would be so hard to adapt to winter and the difference from my
family, or that there was a correct way to ride a bicycle. It seemed to me that it was important to
express my culture and identity, so in this year I have learned to appreciate every chance I get to speak
in Spanish, to talk about my country and my people, to make music and food and spend time with
people who make me feel at home. I have learned that there is value in feeling different or going
through the discomfort of not knowing everything, and that everyone has something to teach.
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