As I had shared in prior Blogs, 1966 was a momentous year for me and the turn to a new life in the United States. My mother and I arrived in Pittsburgh for my week long training in American culture at Chatham College attended by about 50 students from all over the world. The cost of the program was $300. At that time, this was a lot of money, but I was provided a scholarship to attend.
The style of the presentations was lecture and discussion. I remember ample discussions about the American involvement in the Middle East with students from that region. It was my first entry into American foreign policy in parts of the world other than Central America. I also remember that there were 2 young women from Afghanistan that used to walk around holding hands. This was not a sign of their sexual orientation, but a sign of affection and closeness between them. They were advised that girls did not walk around holding hands in the US and that this may be something they wished to avoid. Huge earrings were in style then as now and being interested in fashion as I am to this day, I purchased a pair or two of these shopping in downtown Pittsburgh.
My mother stayed at the YWCA while I was taking my course, but we visited during the week-end. While window shopping downtown during one of our visits, a man approached me to converse with us. He seemed respectful, kind and interested in us. He asked where we were staying and I shared this with him. He later called me for a date to take my mother and me out for dinner. My mother and I met him at the restaurant he picked where he showed up with a male friend. I presumed this was a double date. The last thing my mother wanted, a very, very Catholic woman previously married, was to be out in a date with a man. To this day I smile when I think about it.
From Pittsburgh we traveled to Findlay, and got settled in my dorm while Mother took residence at Mrs. Magoon’s home, across the street from my dorm. Mr. Templeton, my advisor, explained the requirements for my degree and advised me regarding my schedule. I shared a dorm room with 2 other women. I remember all of my roommates but not in the order in which they lived with me – Clara, Kay, Cindy are the ones most distinct on my mind. They were all white as everyone in my floor. There were no Latino students staying on campus. There was a group of black students and a Black Student Union. When Rev. King was assassinated I remember that they held an activity to grieve about his passing. At that time I was beginning to understand race relations in the United States.
An African American student who was on the school band asked me out on a date which I declined. To this day I wish I had not. It may have been a good opportunity to learn about his experience as a minority in the United States. During my first year I went out on dates once or twice with Jean Pierre who was a foreign student from Jordan that I had met in Pittsburgh. He was a good buddy to have and say hello to on campus and we had experiences to share from our experience at Chatham College.
All that I remember from that year is new, interesting and pleasant. I don’t recall being homesick or missing anything or anybody from Nicaragua. Basically, I was open to the new experience and intended to give it my all. I did lose some weight because we used to have dinner early, at around 5 or 5:30 pm with no snacks after dinner. As a freshman, I also walked in town all the way to the movies which were on the other side or Main Street. It was a very good time in my life.
Photo by: Alvin Trusty.