Alumni Spotlight: Panama

Hello! I am Eduardo Javier Cortes Valderrama from Panama. I participated in the Global UGRAD program during the fall of 2021 and studied at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.  

After my experience as a Global UGRAD, I started to reflect on how inspiring and life-changing this experience was. Not only because I had the opportunity to create unforgettable moments or make friends from different parts of the world, but also because I got the chance to know more things about myself and know what I really want to do in the future.  

When I arrived at my host institution, I asked for information about the activities and programs for international students, so I could get involved in the community. I heard that I could apply to have a friendship family. I thought it was a great opportunity to know more about the community, learn about the American culture, and share my culture with a local family.

I was nervous and excited at the same time when I got notified that Fred and Ann Reynolds selected me to spend time with them during the semester, but I felt great when I met them because they were awesome. I only have good memories with them, but I will always remember the time when they invited me to celebrate Thanksgiving with the whole family in Virginia at Eric’s house (their son). There, I enjoyed talking to everyone about thanksgiving traditions and having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone was very nice to me and made me feel like a was another member of the family. The day after Thanksgiving, we woke up early to go to a tree farm and find a good Christmas tree. It was like in the movies. It was fun. I was so happy about this experience that I decided to share it in my final speech in my public speaking class, and my professor and classmates loved it.

I definitely enjoyed learning about the American culture, and having the opportunity to share my culture with a local family was one of the best things about my semester in the United States.

Now that I am back home, I have shared my experience with friends, classmates, and family and I have been finishing my university studies. I also participated in conducting a research study at my home university (Universidad de Panama CRU-Cocle). I could learn a lot from that experience because I never considered conducting research, but now it is something that interests me because research is a way to find answers or solutions to questions and problems, and that could be a way to help others. 

Being a Global UGRAD made me realize that I want to inspire others to explore new cultures, learn new languages, and share their experiences with others. Sometimes it is difficult to make plans when life changes so fast, but I am planning to graduate at the end of 2022, and I am also planning to create a community project that will allow people from my community to interact with different cultures because many people do not have the chance to do it, but if I can be a bridge to build that interaction, I will definitely do it.