Laura Viale said she had many preconceived notions of Americans before she was admitted to the University of Arizona in August of 2017.
She was born and raised in Argentina and said she only knew American culture through the lens of movies she had seen as a child.
“I think I had a lot of stereotypes before coming to the United States, mainly because of what I had seen on television and in films and what I had heard from friends who had been to the U.S.," Viale said. "Lots of those stereotypes were broken once I came here and began interacting with students through the Global Ambassador program."
Viale’s stereotypes mainly revolved around students in sororities, she said.
“I had this stereotype that they were shallow blonde girls that only cared about partying, but once I started working with them through the program, I found out they are amazing people," Viale said. "They care about others, and they fight for what they believe in.”
Viale acknowledges she took a risk in setting off to a new country and leaving her friends and family back in Argentina but said she felt there were unique opportunities in the U.S. awaiting her.
“I really wanted to have the experience of venturing into something that was unknown. My godfather lives here, so I also wasn’t completely alone. Mainly, it was the idea of adventure. I am crazy about adventure. I may not know how I am going to do it, I just know I will do it,” Viale said.
It is this spirit of adventure that propelled and motivated Viale to try something new, she added.
In the process, she said she has forged new friendships, found a boyfriend with whom she has been with for over a year and discovered new opportunities working as a coordinator within the Department of Spanish & Portuguese at the UA. Viale is applying for a work permit and is getting her master’s in Hispanic linguistics.
Viale said she misses friends and family from Argentina and tries her best to stay in touch with them through Skype, Facebook and other social media, and she also said she misses Argentine cuisine, mainly the "Sandwich de Miga."
“They are very popular in Argentina. Everyone loves them," Viale said. "They are very difficult to make, because of the mayo and type of bread that you need – it must be very spongy. And I really, really like them, and I miss them a lot.”
Viale said she does not get to go back home very often because of how "grueling and expensive" the 14-hour flight can be. She got to go back in June of last summer and will return upon graduating in July.
“I try to video chat a lot with family and friends. Everyone tries to make sure that if there is some kind of birthday party or a celebration, everyone tries to make sure I am virtually there,” Viale said.
While Viale acknowledges there are cultural differences between nations, she also insists stereotypes are generalizations and “people are people, no matter where you go.”
Viale said she will continue to travel and try new things as part of her new lifestyle.
“My boyfriend and I are thinking about going to either Edinburgh in Scotland or Canada, because they have great Ph.D. programs,” Viale said.
Viale's boyfriend, Damian Romero, is from Mexico and said he believes they have bonded over the fact they are both international students.
“Since we are both international students, we understand what it is like to come to the U.S. from a whole different culture," Romero said. "This is a fact that has brought us together for sure, since Mexico and Argentina have cultures that are as different as, say, Australia and the U.S."
Viale credits a lot of personal growth to the risks she has taken in coming to the U.S.
“I took a risk in coming here. I left my family, my friends and everything, but it has paid off," Viale said. "It’s difficult to have connections with someone who is far away. I lost people in the process, but I think the ones I have kept are the ones that actually want to be in my life."
Viale also credits the UA with creating a welcoming environment for international students, especially through the Global Ambassadors program.
“The students have opportunities to interact among themselves and have a security blanket, a network they can count on,” Viale said.
Kiran Sardar is a colleague of Viale’s and said she has gotten to see her grow throughout her time at the university.
“I have always admired Laura's honesty about being an international student in the U.S.," Sadar said. "She very honestly and often humorously would put forward things that she found different and sometimes strange here."
Sadar said, being an international student herself, she has often resonated with her experiences and more importantly "appreciated Viale for the warm culture and caring spirit" she has brought from Argentina.
Viale also said becoming a student again at the age of 34 has been troubling but incredibly rewarding. She stressed the importance of stepping out of one's comfort zone.
“Go for it. The experiences you have when you go abroad are amazing,” Viale said.
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