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Josselyn Vazquez-Catalan

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Josselyn Vazquez-Catalan is a global studies major who grew up in a place very different from Lincoln. Despite this, finding an inclusive group of friends on campus helped her embrace her background.
– Josselyn Vazquez-Catalan –

Coming to Nebraska, I didn’t know many people. My hometown has a large Latino population; everyone speaks or understands some form of Spanish, so Lincoln was a bit of a shock. I tried to change who I was at first, but my friends found it very interesting that I was Hispanic because a bunch of them went to primarily white schools. Slowly, I started embracing me again, and let myself go back to listening to Spanish music, speaking Spanish and all that.

The first way I made friends was through my Learning Community. A lot of my other friends came from First Husker, which is a program for first-generation students. As First Huskers, we got to move in four days early and were shown all around campus. I still talk to one of my best friends I met through that program—we’re moving in together next year.

Josselyn used her experiences to find a major that expanded her connection to the world.
Josselyn posing with 5 other students

I was originally a business major, but when I realized I’m more of a people person, I switched to a double major in global and ethnic studies with an emphasis in Latin American studies. A lot of my required classes—like history and psychology—are centered around understanding why people are the way they are.

Before college, my understanding of history was rooted in an American perspective. I feel like my major has changed my whole understanding of history by allowing me to understand and empathize with what people from different ethnicities have gone through. It also opens a door to connect with people from different cultures, especially if you can share something that you might know about their country.

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Josselyn took an interest she picked up in a class and turned it into an international group study trip, which led to friends from another continent.

My freshman year, I was in a history class about the Holocaust. Some students came in to talk about a summer study abroad trip to the Czech Republic, with some stops in Poland and Berlin. I almost didn’t go for it, but Lori Romano from First Husker convinced me to apply at the last minute, and I got in!

The trip was focused on European history. We got to learn in-depth about European cultures, tour through the streets, hike the border of the Czech Republic and Poland and meet  people from around the world. One day, we got lost on a bridge and met a group from France. They didn’t know a lot of English, and we didn’t know a lot of French, but we found ways to communicate. We went out with them for our entire last week there. We all follow each other on Instagram, and we still talk occasionally.

I didn’t know anyone beforehand—we all met on the first day of the trip at dinner and were thrown together for a whole month. When we came back from the trip, we all hung out every weekend that summer. I met some of my best friends on that trip.

“Seeing the inequity firsthand put me in a place where I want to do all I can to give back.”

— Josselyn Vazquez-Catala

Josselyn’s experiences have made her passionate about giving back—and she’s using her time as a Husker to make a difference.

I think one of the main things that drove me to nonprofit work was seeing people in my hometown struggle. My town has a large Guatemalan and Salvadorian population; many don’t have resources that most people take for granted in the states. Seeing the inequity firsthand put me in a place where I want to do all I can to give back and stop being ungrateful for what I don’t have.

For my human rights and humanitarian affairs minor capstone, I get to do an internship with a nonprofit organization. I’m excited because I know there are quite a few Asian and Black nonprofits in Lincoln. I haven’t worked with Asian nonprofits before, so I’m really excited to see the work they do.

After graduation, I want to work for a nonprofit that helps minorities in the United States get access to essential resources. I would love to work with an organization like the Peace Corps, where I can work hands-on to deliver resources and learn from the people that I’m helping firsthand.