“You can learn something good from every culture, every person, every language,” says sophomore Maria Gomez, a Spanish and international business major.
Maria and her twin sister, Ana, an international relations and sociology major, have gathered a wealth of experience with different lifestyles and cultures.
Born in Mexico, their early lives revolved around weekends at their grandpa’s house and spending time with their “big Mexican family.” Then, when they were 12 years old, their parents delivered an earth-shattering announcement: their family was moving to England.
On the move
In England, Ana and Maria faced a difficult language barrier and had to acclimate to a new culture. But, as they embraced their new home, the sisters began to appreciate all that their new life had to offer.
France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Turkey, Holland — those are only a few of the countries they visited during their time as Britons. Their mom especially pushed them toward learning about new cultures.
“I remember my mom saying to us, ‘These things don’t happen to everybody.’ You have to live the moment rather than take it for granted,” Maria says.
After five years in England, their parents made another monumental decision to move. Now settled in Rochester, Mich., their dad, Mariano, works as an IT director for General Motors; their mom, Ana Maria, works and volunteers at a Hispanic outreach; and their younger sister, Alejandra, is a senior in high school.
At home at Olivet
Ana was the first to discover Olivet Nazarene University. She later chose Olivet College in Michigan, but Maria decided to attend college in Bourbonnais. For the first time in their lives, the twin sisters were separated.
“It was definitely different, but not a big shock. Because of our lifestyle, we’re used to moving away from people. But at the same time, I was used to being with my sister 24/7,” Maria says. “That time apart was a good chance for both of us to learn things on our own.”
After one year at Olivet College, Ana decided to transfer to ONU. She has transitioned seamlessly into the new environment, but her appearance on campus has caused some confusion. “People don’t know that I have a twin,” Maria says.
Learning for serving
Since sharing their story together as part of Olivet’s 2013 Hispanic Heritage Dinner in October, Ana and Maria hope to inspire others not to shy away from different cultures and languages. Their experiences — learning English, starting over in a new country, adapting to new cultures — have also resulted in a resolve to overcome tough situations. The many moves the sisters have made have taught them new life skills.
“We had to be open-minded. We had to be risk takers. We had to learn to try new things. That affects everything we do now,” Ana says. “I want to make it easy for people to avoid a culture clash.”
Both are Tiger athletes, Maria in track and Ana in soccer. They hope to use their successes in sports, academics, service and travel to help others.
Ana is studying Arabic and wants to work for the U.N. or an embassy. She dreams of traveling to the Middle East, and she wants her life example to help people learn to respect different cultures.
Maria dreams of studying in Spain. She hopes to use both of her majors in a global company and in helping others. “My aim and main purpose for everything I do is to ‘shine not so that others can see you, but so that others can see him through you,’” she says.