From the day Cristina Recalde '08 arrived on campus from Quito, Ecuador, she began to redefine herself. The shy teen from far away quickly discovered she was in an environment that encouraged her to participate, and she felt her confidence and sense of self begin to grow.
"Language was a challenge the first year," said Recalde, who didn't take long to learn, speak and think in fluent English, in addition to her native Spanish. She later took French classes in preparation for a semester of study in Paris.
With her love for journalism, Recalde joined the staff of the student-run newspaper, The Torch, and during her four years held positions as a staff writer, feature writer, photographer, copy editor and viewpoint editor.
She also worked in the Office of University Communications, where she learned to format brochures, supplied content, including photo galleries, for the university's online newsletter Around the Hollow and assisted with materials and research for the alumni magazine and news releases – all activities that provided important resumé builders.
Recalde didn't stop there. She worked as a tour guide for the Office of Admission and learned additional skills in customer service and interacting with both parents and prospective students. She also taped a Witt Light segment for the admission Web site. And Recalde joined the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and soon became involved in its philanthropic efforts with the Ronald McDonald House.
"The sorority women became my family. They taught me what the Ronald McDonald House is, and why we support it," she said. "You do the work because you want to, because you know you can make a difference in people's lives."
Accepting a role of leadership, Recalde co-founded the Hispanic Culture Club on campus. She said that initially it was a way for students of South and Central American heritage to add their voices to campus, in addition to opening the membership to the entire campus community. Through the club, Recalde gave salsa dance lessons in Wally's Pub on campus and at a local café.
An active member of the American International Association (AIA), Recalde was elected International Senator to Student Senate. AIA represents the interests of international students on campus and helps them with the adjustments of entry and re-entry into the United States. AIA is also open to the entire campus community.
The group hosts the popular Crossroads food festival, held annually during Homecoming Weekend. Members cook their native dishes for others to sample, and they have booths from each country to provide information about their homelands and cultures.
A semester in Paris her senior year offered Recalde an additional opportunity to experience another culture, meet new people and become fluent in a third language. She visited Spain, England and Italy while she was abroad, and she traveled extensively in the United States, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas during her four years as a Wittenberg student.
"It was amazing," she said. "I got to see so many things that I'd read about in books. I learned to appreciate so much that I had taken for granted, and I learned a lot about myself. I was often alone but never lonely – nothing stopped me. I learned to appreciate life and other cultures."
At the 2008 Honors Convocation, Recalde received the Global Awareness Award. The award, instituted in 1992, recognizes seniors who contribute to greater global awareness within the Wittenberg University community. Recalde was accepted at the Denver School of Publishing for a five-week book publishing program in July following graduation.
- Written by Phyllis Eberts '00
- Photo by Robert Gantt