Karla Vargas Nafate, from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, Mexico, is a Fulbright teaching assistant for Spanish in the Modern and Classical Languages Department here at the University of St. Thomas. She will talk about Mexico and the Fulbright Program at a CultureLink Tea presentation from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, in Room 155, Murray-Herrick Campus Center.
Vargas began learning English at a private school in kindergarten and later studied abroad over a summer in London. Although she initially had decided to study medicine in college, she found that teaching was the right place for her: “I felt at home, like I had fallen into the right place.”
After graduating from the State University of Chiapas, Vargas became a licensed teacher and taught one year at the university. Then she set her sights on Fulbright.
Vargas learned about the Fulbright Program from one of her teachers who was a Fulbright participant. Mexico and the United States have a special commission that brings Mexican teaching assistants to America. She was open to going anywhere in the United States and is happy with her location.
“At first I thought I was going to the St. Thomas in Houston, Texas,” she said. “Once I looked at the website, I realized I was going to Minnesota. I did not know anything about Minnesota, except that Minneapolis was mentioned in an episode of 'Beverly Hills, 90210.' It has been a very interesting journey. My stereotype of Americans was broken as soon as I came to Minnesota. The people are great with many cultures living in the Twin Cities, and there are many opportunities here.”
After being here for a semester, Vargas is greatly missing her family. “I definitely miss my sisters,” she said. “We are a close family, and my sisters are important to me. In every choice that I make, I always take into account their points of view and their feelings. I also miss my parents and grandparents. I miss my parents because they help me make objective decisions, and I miss their hugs. I miss my grandparents because I am worried about their heath and feel awful every time my grandfather goes into the hospital.
“But even with these worries, I remain persistent. This is my philosophy toward life. When I applied to Fulbright, the professor who recommended me told me that I need to be persistent. If I did not get it, I should try again. I strongly believe that we need to be persistent to accomplish our objectives. We also need to be optimistic. Life sometimes is not fair, but it is the only one that we have, so we have to live it, live it well and make every experience count."
“Never give up,” Vargas advises students thinking of applying to the Fulbright Program. “If you do not get it the first time, keep trying. Be realistic in the beginning with requirements and take it step by step. It is worth it. Be confident in yourself because nothing is impossible.”
After finishing her time at St. Thomas, Vargas is interested in getting a master’s degree in Minnesota or Spain and continuing to teach English. After that, she is open to going anywhere, but never will forget Minnesota. “I am going to come back to Minnesota,” she stated.
To learn more about Vargas and Mexico, attend her CultureLink Tea presentation on Tuesday, March 15. Tea and snacks will be provided.