By Andrea Carolina Rodriguez Cortes
English Language Program
Since I was a child, I’ve always wanted to live abroad. I’ve always wanted to learn to speak different languages. I’ve always wanted to know about different cultures. My first experience living abroad was at the age of 10 when my parents decided to move from Cali, Colombia, the city that I am from, to Volcan, Panama. This little town is known for its peaceful atmosphere, and many foreigners, mostly from the United States and Germany, live there. I remember going to public places and trying to communicate with kids at my age in English. I didn’t speak that much, but I was able to understand a lot because my mom used to talk to me in English. I felt extremely happy when I started making friends and speaking in another language. Unfortunately, we decided to move back to Cali for various reasons, one of which was that we missed our family and friends and weren’t used to living in a small town after spending our entire lives in big cities.
Years later, when I graduated from high school, I decided to choose a career related to languages. My lifelong ambition has been to learn five languages, and I speak three already (English, Spanish, and French). I decided to pursue a career in foreign languages at the University of Santiago de Cali. While I was studying at the university, I worked as an English teacher in a school and as a French teacher in another institute. As my graduation date approached, I was resolved that once I completed my study, I would look an opportunity to live abroad. I didn’t want to live in Colombia anymore; I wanted to know the world; I wanted to know other cultures; I wanted to improve my English; I wanted to improve my French, and I wanted to have that cultural experience living abroad. I decided to look for options and I found an au pair program in the US. After talking to my parents, I applied to the au pair program, which is how I ended up living here.
When I started looking for families in the au pair program, I found a family that was in Pittsburgh. To be completely honest, I’d never heard of Pittsburgh before as it’s not as popular as New York, Miami, San Francisco, or Chicago. When I decided to come here, people asked me, “Why Pittsburgh?” I looked up the city and discovered that it had many good universities and a Latino population that wasn’t very large, so I could immerse myself in the language, which was perfect. Yes!! Pittsburgh was the city that I was looking for. Finally, I graduated from the university in December 2019 and moved to the United States in February 2020. I was living a dream. I had previously visited the United States on vacation in New York, but I didn’t practice English that much. I mostly spoke Spanish, so coming to a city where I could practice English was ideal. The first two weeks were great; everything was going well for me; everything was beautiful—the buildings, the city, speaking English every single day, going shopping—I was experiencing my dream cultural immersion. Unfortunately, two weeks after the lockdown began, I spent several months experiencing the opposite. After the lockdown was over, I began to travel, visiting New York, Los Angeles, Malibu, Santa Monica, and Myrtle Beach from June to December 2020. I was happy again.
When I finished my program as an au pair in February 2022, I decided that I wanted to study in the US, so I applied for a student visa at Chatham, and I was accepted into the English Language Program. I’ve learned a lot about grammar, vocabulary, composition, and communication. My goal is to be accepted into a graduate program in international relations, and I believe that was a good choice to apply to the ELP program at Chatham. So far, it has been great living here. I love the city. Still, when I meet a new person and they know that I am from Colombia, they ask me, “Why did you choose Pittsburgh to live in?” I just said that it was one of the best decisions that I have made. Why Pittsburgh? Because I love practicing the language every day. Why Pittsburgh? Because it isn’t that small or big, which makes it perfect. Why Pittsburgh? Because I love having the four seasons here, seeing the bridges, and enjoying its old infrastructure. Why Pittsburgh? Because I love the Steelers, even though I am still learning about football. Why Pittsburgh? Because this city has opened its doors to me, and I feel so comfortable living here. Why Pittsburgh? Because I have gained cultural knowledge living here, and I wouldn’t change it to live somewhere else. Why Pittsburgh? Because it is the first city where I have lived abroad by myself, and I am planning to stay. If I had to pick a city for cultural immersion again, I would pick Pittsburgh again.