Potluck of Cultures

Jessica

This is Jessica. She is from Colombia. She still misses the flavors of her home country, but by cooking typical Colombian dishes – like her favorite; Maduro, bananas that have been cut in half and baked with cheese in the middle – she brings her home town back to life in her own kitchen. “It is delicious! I love it!”

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It takes a strong woman to decide to uproot her life to join her husband in a year and a half long adventure abroad. As luck would have it, that is exactly how Jessica describes not only herself, but the people of Colombia: strong, but also independent. And, as it turns out, adventurous: when the company her husband Hernando works for in Colombia offered him the opportunity to obtain his master’s degree in Atlanta, Jessica did not hesitate long. Early 2016, the couple took the plunge and moved from Colombia to their new home in the United States. However, moving to another country was not 16649349_728299153985214_1990970440898386333_nwithout its own worries. “Before I came here, I was nervous about moving, because I didn’t speak any English. The other thing I was worried about was the relationship with my husband… By coming here, he will improve his career and when he goes back, he will have the same job, but for me it is different, because I am not allowed to work here.” For Jessica, even though her job as recruiter in a HR company in Colombia was not her dream job, leaving it still proved to be very difficult. While she admits that she misses going to work, what she misses most about her job are her former coworkers. “When I return, I want to start a specialization and work in clinical psychology; working with people and helping them, I like that very much.” For Jessica, the biggest struggle she encountered when moving to the United States was her lack of knowledge of the English language. Even though initially she did not speak any English, she jokes that she kept on trying to communicate with people, even if it meant that she was always acting out what she wanted to say. “I think my personality is more open and I always try to communicate, but it was a very funny way of communicating!”

In Atlanta, Jessica now has time to focus on doing the things she enjoys. Aside from improving her English by taking English classes at the Georgia Tech Language Institute, she is very excited about her newest project: opening a youtube channel that deals exclusively with psychology, featuring informative videos on relevant subjects that she has created herself in both English and Spanish. She also loves spending her time painting her friends’ nails and creating beautiful nail art designs for them. “In my university I used to paint the nails of all my friends. Here in Atlanta, I also did it for some of my friends. One of them told me: you should make a picture of your nails for promotion. Then, I posted this picture in the Georgia Tech International Spouse Group and some of them came to my house to get their nails done. I think this is good, because I can paint speak with them and I learn about these girls and their stories.”

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Just like she loves the diversity of the various regional cultures of her beloved Colombia, from congenial and chatty in her hometown Cali to happy and loud or more reserved in the southern and northern regions, Jessica loves the eclectic mix of cultures she has been able to experience in Atlanta. This was also what attracted her to the Georgia Tech International Spouse Group, where she could meet and find support from men and women from all over the world, who have all followed their spouse to Atlanta and who 16387188_728299143985215_1205226029492977271_nfind themselves in the same situation. “I met a lot of women from different countries there and they were very kind to me from the beginning and I have made some good friends there. I think this is very important! Meeting people from different cultures, I think this is very special to me. I try to ask them about their history, culture, language… I like to learn about that!” For Jessica, especially the multitude of religions that come together in the melting pot that is the United States has been a true revelation for her. “When I arrived in Atlanta, I visited the Martin Luther King Memorial and while I was sitting in his church with my best friend, I realized that, because she is a Buddhist, this was not her god; she believes in another god. Now, learning about all those other gods has made me think differently…”

Even though she is happy they decided to take advantage of the opportunity to live abroad, she has also realized that she wants to help Colombia grow and prosper. For her, Colombia is often a misunderstood and undervalued place, with a lot of beauty and good qualities, hidden away under layers of grime. “Colombia has good things, but we need to work on it in Colombia. They need us more there than here in the United States. I love my country very much… We are always improving our life and I believe that Colombia is at the start of a new history!”

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Interview and writing by Tineke Van Varenberg

Make up by Denise Batista

Interview and Photography by Sonal Sukheeja

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