Like any commitment to a certain profession or goal, there is an intricate matrix of factors that lead up to a definitive decision. My family and I emigrated from Colombia to Denver, Colorado when I was five. My parents wanted the best for the future of their three kids, and they did not see it in the turbulent and violent conditions that pervaded Colombian society at the time. The land of opportunity received us promisingly, but it had its price; this decision implied hard work, adaptation, and severing family and cultural ties.
In my adolescent years, I had reached a point where I could not communicate meaningfully or intellectually with my parents in our native language of Spanish. A piercing sensation of emptiness struck me as I realized this, but this was also a pivotal point in my life. I yearned to develop and use the Spanish that I had never known. For the last two years of high school, I immersed my mind in my desires to define my identity and to forge a link to my family and cultural legacy that I felt was at stake. Little did I know, this personal goal aligned with that of an undergraduate career in Linguistics and Latin American Studies.
At first, I believed linguistics was a field of study for languages, particularly language acquisition. I declared a major in this field based off of my experience of learning Spanish late in my life. Now I am aware that the career entails much more; it is a manner of studying all human languages through a scientific lens. From the most basic levels of analysis of the anatomical components that humans possess for articulation to the higher levels of philosophical and universal theory, linguistics enchanted me from the very start of my career. This major paired harmoniously with my interests in learning about Latin America; learning about the culture and history that my childhood and adolescence were secluded from. I declared a second major in Latin American Studies envisioning how both majors complement each other in the field of humanities studies.
A major obstacle that I first confronted was defining my identity, an essential component for my personal and professional development, for nothing can grow from a weak foundation. Once enrolled at the University of New Mexico, many economic and academic obstacles also presented themselves, but I countered these challenges through disciplined study and several part-time jobs.
Receiving my bachelor’s degree in these two majors signifies not only the start of a very fulfilling personal goal, but also bringing my parents’ dream to fruition. I highly esteem the value of legacy forged through hard and honest work, a value that my parents instilled in my mind and heart. My academic endeavors align with my personal ones; a combination of factors that I hope will guide me to a fulfilling professional career. This one may not imply a very stable economic future, but it is one that I deem with intellectual, cultural, and humanistic value.
We are proud to announce Mateo Rocha is one of the current LatPro Scholarship finalists. Vote for his essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.