Summers in South America

Senior Valentina Gardner Connects with Family in Colombia


(Photo Courtesy of Valentina Gardner)

For senior Valentina Gardner, visiting her family in Colombia every summer has been an absolutely amazing experience.

Although she tries to do different things every year when she goes, one of her favorite things has been helping teach English. 

“I got the opportunity to teach kids English in Colombia, like kids without access to school, and I kind of got that connection of having friends in Colombia. I really didn’t see them from a teacher perspective, I saw them more as friends that I got to help out,” Gardner said.

Gardner has been traveling to Colombia every year since she was born.

“Going to Colombia is not a vacation. To me, going to Colombia is like going back to my second home and going back to visit my family,” Gardner said. 

When her mother used to take her and her siblings to Colombia for the entire summer, she didn’t like it at first. 

“At the beginning, I hated going because growing up in the United States, I kind of hated the idea of being something other than fully American and as I have grown up I have grown to love and appreciate my Latin side,” Gardner said. 

“I look forward to those trips to Colombia every summer because it makes me realize that me being Latin is something that a lot of people don’t have and going every summer has kind of made me feel in touch with my heritage.” 

Gardner loves going to Colombia for many different reasons, but one reason stands out among the rest. 

“I really enjoy going just to see my family,” Gardner said. “It’s really the only time that I get to see them and as my grandparents get older and reach that age of not being as mobile as they used to be, I go every chance I get to go see them and I don’t take it for granted.”