Center for Social Entrepreneurship

at Middlebury

Reflection Friday with Grecia de la O Abarca

Finding a campus mentor is an important experience in college. Mentors can help us think through things. Together we develop a shared understanding and build a vision. Judging from the energy in the room many students have found a mentor in Grecia. At her Reflection Friday, she inspired a vision of inclusivity and empathy. Her goal as a mentor is to introduce people to more experiences, cultures, and ideas. Friends, family, and neighbors matter to her, because the connections she builds with them help her bring out the best in everyone — the dream of any changemaker.

Being an international student shaped her experiences at an American college. She told this story through language. Leaving the warmth of her 2,500 person hometown for a foreign country meant she had to learn a new language. The challenge became how to be herself in English and Spanish. As a senior in college, she’s grateful for the opportunity. She learned to appreciate how interacting with others is something that’s always there to lift her up. Overcoming one challenge can create a new one, however. When she comes back to Mexico, people are unsure where she’s from. Her accent suggests Guatemala! Correcting them makes her uncomfortable, but it’s all part of how her experience abroad enriches her. Identity and language have a special meaning to her. Through her own language and way of communicating, she mentors others.

As a CSE fellow and Semester at Sea participant, Grecia expressed this vision. The best moment from her Semester at Sea experience was afterward, when she shared pictures with her Grandfather. In that moment, she served her family and friends from across the world world as bridge — linking and expanding experiences. As part of her fellowship, she traveled to Chile to design sustainable energy sources and connect with a new corner of the Spanish-speaking world. A mentor collects her experiences by showing grit and courage, just as Grecia has done.

The greatest take-home message from last Friday is this idea of mentorship. It’s one that Grecia never specifically mentioned, but constantly shone through her thoughts and stories. Everything she said focused on people — bringing out their value. What matters to Grecia is really appreciating the people with whom she can flourish. Sometimes, flourishing can be a challenge, as it was when she came to Middlebury and dove into an academically rigorous program in a foreign country. At other times, success can be simple and honest — when she tells her friends at 7PM that it’s nap time. Regardless of how she flourishes, the sense of empathy and community remains. The vision that drives her each day is being a mentor — a bridge, as she puts it.


Post written by SE Intern, Grant Olcott ’19

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