For most of her childhood, senior Daniela Rivera Aguayo lived in the border city of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. When she was 10 years old, she and her family moved to Arizona and though she started learning English at a young age, she struggled to understand her classmates and adapt to the new culture. Her eagerness to learn and connect with her new community fueled her.
Rivera Aguayo’s move allowed her to learn more about new cultures and about herself and led her on a path to study international affairs and Spanish with a minor in Arabic at NAU.
“I began to gain interest in international affairs during high school, after taking a history course. I wanted to learn more about the systems that make up the world, and how it functions, as well as its history that leads us to today,” Rivera Aguayo said. “I wanted to help others and find the best way to do so. I felt that by learning languages I could connect with people across cultures and open up my own world step by step.”
She found that through communicating with people in their native language, she could form stronger bonds and learn more deeply. Her parents were first-generation college students, so receiving an education beyond high school was important to her and her family.
“My education at NAU has given me guidance on the path I should take to better assist other people. It has also given me opportunities to learn hands-on and to go out of my comfort zone. I believe that studying has opened up my world and has allowed me to learn more about myself.”
When she visited NAU, she fell in love with the pine trees and the cold weather, a climate very different from where she grew up. The close-knit community of Flagstaff made her feel welcome. She got involved in a variety of projects and studied abroad in both Morocco and France.
“In Morocco, I remember fondly the conversations I had with taxi drivers, shopkeepers and other students that helped me learn about their traditions and the Arabic language,” she said. “It reminded me so much of Mexico, and at times I felt at home. I met so many amazing people and we formed friendships that will last for a very long time. I learned so much about a culture different from mine, but at times very similar.”
Back in Flagstaff, Rivera Aguayo looks back at her classes with gratitude.
“I had such a great support system with my professor and classmates in my Arabic class as I learned this new language,” she said. “In my Spanish classes, I will never forget the bond from other Hispanic and Latinx students that was formed from learning more about ourselves and our language, while also introducing Spanish learners to our perspective.”
For her international affairs capstone project, she investigated how globalization impacted Mexican life and migration. It helped her understand the impacts of globalization on her own life in her community. In her Spanish capstone, she translated a speech by Gloria Anzaldúa, called “Speaking in Tongues,” from English to Spanish.
“I wanted to bring a wider audience the message about resilience and self-acceptance, to women who maybe don’t feel like they fit in in the world. These projects have been so significant to my work at NAU, as they compile what I have learned and have acquired a passion for over these past four years.”
Rivera Aguayo hopes to continue learning Arabic in addition to many other languages. Through interpreting and translating she wants to help others find their voice and to speak on issues that are important in their community, specifically within Arizona’s immigrant communities.
“NAU has given me the tools to keep learning about the world around me, and to help others in the best possible way.”