From Peru to UMass
Ana Belen Moscoso Gonzales, a double major in biochemistry and molecular biology as well as applied math, comes from Arequipa, Peru. While that is a ways away from Massachusetts, she had always known she was going to go to a university in the states. Coming from Arequipa, Ana immediately noticed the towny feel of Amherst, Massachusetts. “Being in a college town there is a lot of diversity, but it is kind of different to a big city because you mainly meet people who are your same age all going to college. It kinda feels like an isolated bubble to real life,” she said. And although all the snow was shocking at first, Ana enjoys the winter.
After studying abroad in Boston during her junior year of high school, Ana knew that was a place she wanted to end up. While doing research for schools in the Boston area she discovered just how many research opportunities were available at UMass, something that, she said “ is not at all available in Peru.” When she received a scholarship to UMass, everything just fell into place.
Ana explained that she had felt prepared for the adjustment to a new country and a new school because she had been traveling throughout high school, starting when she was 13. Although she felt prepared, starting college was still an adjustment. Ana explained, “It was still different because college has its own quirks, and requires a lot more maturity, and I wasn't living with a host family anymore, I was living by myself.”
The biggest thing that helped Ana through the transition was finding her own community. While her first semester felt more isolated due to the pandemic, once restrictions were lifted she was able to meet people in her classes, join clubs, and work on campus. The Latinos Unidos club helped her find her Latin community, somewhere she could hear others speaking Spanish while also learning and celebrating cultures that felt new to her. The group hosts fun game nights as well as larger events like Noche Latina, which includes different cultural performances, food, and more.
Ana discovered many new parts of herself while exploring opportunities on campus. Through her work at the Learning Resource Center (LRC), she found how much she loved teaching students, and realized that maybe research in biotech wasn’t where she was going to end up. Ana is now taking the steps to become a professor by researching different PhD programs.
Ana emphasizes that new students should, “not neglect other aspects of your identity. It’s okay to take gen-eds that fulfill other parts of your identity. It's easy to focus on your career, but I joined the fashion club just because I enjoy it. College isn’t only about academics.”