Senior Spotlight: Valeria Gonzalez


Photo: Emily Carey/The Simpsonian

by Emma Schlenker, Staff Reporter

Q: What activities you are involved in?
This year, I was only involved in the International Student Organization, and I work as a Student Ambassador, which I really love. I did two years of track, which I had never done before in my life, and it was such an amazing opportunity. I got to find out for the first time what shin splints were, and to try an incredibly demanding sport. When I was in gymnastics, I used to think there would never be any sport that could compare to it, and then I did track. I was an SC Leader my junior year, and it was one of the most wonderful things I did here at Simpson. It was great to work together with Professor Dallinger and Jasmine Ward — we were a great team!

Q: How did you get to Simpson?
A: My experience was a little different from the usual college hunting everybody goes through during high school. My original plan was actually to stay back home in Mexico. I had done most of my studies there, after all. But then, after my first year in high school in Juarez, the town where I live, the education system was changed, teachers were replaced by the new system, our dance coach wasn’t there anymore, and I didn’t enjoy it as much anymore. About a year before this happened my mom had heard about Lydia Patterson Institute, a private Methodist middle school and high school in El Paso, Texas, my siblings were already attending this school, so I decided to transfer as well. After two years, it was time for me to graduate, and I was only looking at colleges around the El Paso area. I had to look for scholarships though, because otherwise I would simply go back to Juarez. However, this was not what God had in mind for my life. Each year LPI offered a full scholarship to one student in their senior year, and I did not intend to apply for this scholarship because I just wanted to stay close to home. They came to me instead and told me that they had this scholarship and would like for me to consider it. I didn’t want to go anywhere, but as I talked to a coach, he said to me, “They are offering you a full scholarship, and you are thinking about it?” And so I applied, and I was the one who got the scholarship that year. I had never heard of Simpson before, but I am so happy to be here!

Q: What has your Simpson experience been like?
A: Way more than what I could’ve ever imagined! I have gotten to try so many things I had never even dreamed of. The idea of studying in another country had never really crossed my mind, yet here I am today. And it didn’t stop here. I was able to study abroad twice for full semester programs — my sophomore year in Tahiti, French Polynesia, and my senior year in London, England. I got to practice my French in Tahiti and build friendships that are really like family now. In London, I learned so much history, and got to see so many amazing views. It has just been wonderful, but fast. I have been able to build so many relationships here at Simpson that it is hard for me to imagine being away from this place now. My roommates have been awesome, they are really the reason why my English has gotten so much better. Rachel, Brianna and Brittany have been an amazing support. They have been there through some of my toughest times, and some of the funniest as well. I am just extremely thankful for everybody I’ve met here: faculty, staff, students, everybody.

Q: What’s your favorite Simpson Memory?
A: I think I really enjoyed Yell Like Hell, it was my favorite for the three years I participated with the International Student Organization. It was so much fun seeing all of the different stomping routines, and there is just so much life on that day! We didn’t do stomping routines. Instead, we made remixes with songs from different countries. It is just a really fun time, having to find time to practice together, to come up with steps, to decide on what we’ll wear and to finally perform is just amazing. There was one week we were all so busy we had to meet at 6 a.m. I thought no one would come, but everybody came! I love this organization and the people in it. Without them, Yell Like Hell, and my Simpson experience would not have been the same.

Q: What is your plan post graduation?
A: This is a really good question. Being an international student, I have 12 months after I graduate to work on OPT, which is a work permit we can apply for after completing a certain level of education. I finally submitted my application last Tuesday with the help of my international advisor, Walter Lain. While this application is being processed, I can’t leave the country. It usually takes about three months to hear back from the Department of Homeland Security. Hopefully it will get accepted because I am already applying for jobs, and if I get accepted into a job but don’t have my OPT, I wouldn’t be able to work. But right after graduation I’ll be taking a May Term on Latin American Communities. I was missing a diversity credit, so I have to stay for three more weeks.

Q: What is senior spring like?
A: It is an overwhelming combination of feelings, I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster this whole semester. I get really really sad because I don’t know if I’ll stay around and be far from my family, or if I’ll go home and I’ll have to say goodbye to a bunch of amazing people. I am stressed because of all the uncertainty that I’m dealing with. I also get really excited every now and then, because it feels amazing to be fulfilling this step in my life. I will be the first one in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree and, in a different country. And the ‘senioritis’ everybody was talking about this semester has finally hit me, I have a few assignments I still need to do, and I am not motivated at all. It is the end of the race though, and you don’t slow down at the end, you give it your all!