Please explain what you do for living.
My name is Diana Gómez-Pereira and I am from Bucaramanga, Colombia. I speak Spanish as my first language and I also speak English at a proficient level and French at a basic level. I came to the United States to study a Master in Education (MEd) with an emphasis in Foreign Language Education. I graduated in the spring of 2010 from the University of Pittsburgh and my undergraduate degree was in Foreign Language teaching at the Universidad Industrial de Santander in Colombia. After graduating from my bachelors’ degree, I worked at an International School in Bogotá, Colombia teaching 1st and 2nd grade with two teachers from Wales and Ireland. In this international school, I was teaching all subjects in English but I was mainly helping students with learning disabilities.
I chose to study Education and become a teacher because I have always been intrigued by how people of different ages learn languages and how they can understand and learn more about the culture of that language by speaking and interacting with people from that country and/or culture. I have taught for almost 10 years while I was also studying and I have been able to teach every level of education from Kindergarten to college students and it has been a rewarding experience to me to continue learning and differentiating how to teach a foreign language to students from different backgrounds and different levels and learning styles. Some of my research interests are: multilingualism, assimilation, learning a second language, culture, Identity, Heritage Language Education, bilingualism among others. Currently, I am working as a Spanish Instructor at Falk laboratory school affiliated to the University of Pittsburgh as well as a current doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. In my spare time, I love to listen to music, dance salsa and meet new people from different cultures.
Every summer, I explore a new part of the world; thus far, I have been to nineteen countries or more! I love living in Pittsburgh and there are a lot of activities I like to do here such as watching the Pittsburgh Panthers Football team, biking in downtown, watching the Steelers games and fans and enjoying the different multiethnic restaurants across the city as well as hanging out with friends and meeting new people every day.
How important in your identity is being Latino?
Being Latina is a crucial part of my identity and who I am. Being a foreigner in the United States has been very difficult for me but at the same time, it has been a rewarding experience. Sometimes, I have to act in a certain way as to fit in the category of how things are in this country. However, my values could be at stake since I was raised and grew up in a Latin American country and things are so different. I had to learn to navigate two cultures, two languages and two countries in a short amount of time in order to be successful. Even though, it is not impossible it takes time and dedication to maintain your values as a Latina in a country where the dominant culture is so different from who you are. I consider myself a bilingual and bicultural individual.
Is there something that you particularly value of your nationality or being Latino?
I value different aspects of my culture. The main aspect that I value the most is family. I grew up in a very tight community where family was everything and meant everything for an individual. This is true for me even now where as an adult I still take my family’s guidance for everything. We make decisions together, we help each other out, we are honest and we enjoy every minute when we are together. Also, I think that Latinxs have and will become such an important population here in the United States that I think that some of the expectations that people have about us will be changing as the demographics is rapidly changing as well. This is an important issue of what I do in my teaching especially to my Spanish heritage speakers who were born in the United States but might feel identified as Latino(a). I use a critical literacy approach to teach them and to support the transition and questions they might have since they are in elementary or secondary school.
Have you been treated differently because of being Latino (in the workplace, in public settings…etc.)?
Yes, absolutely. I have been treated different in several occasions but one that I can describe now is when I finished my studies at Pitt and I moved to an apartment in Regent Square, I was really excited about this apartment and I wanted to move in right away. However, I had to meet with the owner and my roommate who is from Pennsylvania. We had to go over the entire lease and at one point I excused myself to take a call from my mom; obviously I was speaking in Spanish with her for 5 minutes. When I came back I signed all paperwork and we were waiting. When I was in the car my friend told me that the owner asked her questions about me and my immigration status and how she wasn’t sure to rent the place to me since she didn’t know that I was legally in this country. I was very upset and disappointed by this behavior but thanks to my friend I understood that these events unfortunately happened often in this country.