Photo of Sofia Prieto in 2022 (Photo by Sofia Prieto/CC BY 4.0)
Sofia Prieto was born and raised in Asuncion, Paraguay. She is currently a senior at the FIU Honors college, majoring in International Business. Sofia’s desire to explore France is rooted in her love for the country’s rich history and culture, particularly in the arts.
In her free time, Sofia enjoys reading, kayaking, and exploring new places with friends. She is also deeply connected to music and dancing, and is excited about the opportunity to immerse herself in the vibrant cultural scene that both Miami and France have to offer through this course.
Eager for new adventures, Sofia is looking forward to the opportunity to travel in the future. Whether it is trying new foods, visiting famous landmarks or immersing herself in the local music and dance scene, Sofia is eager to experience it all.
Encounter as Text
“To be human” by Sofia Prieto of FIU at Modesto A. Maidique Campus, January 27, 2023
Reality hit me hard on that first class. When the professor started describing life in France, something as simple as the heated French arguments on the table, that’s when it sunk in. I was really going to France. I started noticing tears forming in my eyes. Emotions flooded through me, embarrassment mixed with excitement mixed with longing. This trip meant everything for me.
I was born in Paraguay, Asuncion. A humble city. Everybody knows everybody. My grandpa knew the true meaning of poverty, what it was like to struggle for his next meal. My grandma fought through the extreme patriarchal system and the toxic rumors of the townspeople. When they met, my grandpa was serving in the military and my grandma was 17, 10 years younger than my grandpa. They fell in love, fought through people’s judgemental rumors, and married. Through hard work and dedication, they created a wonderful future together.
Out of all my cousins and siblings, I was the first born. Needless to say, my family loved to spoil me, especially my grandparents. I grew up surrounded by their love and support, and would go to their house every weekend, sometimes staying for weeks on end, because my heart couldn’t take it to leave. I would love to go to the farm and play with the animals, garden with my grandma, and run around the enormous backyard. My family was always very encouraging, sending me to the best schools and dance academies to give me an opportunity to be successful.
Hanging out at my grandmother’s farm in 2004 (Photo by Sofia Prieto/CC BY 4.0)
My grandma has always been one of the most supportive people in my life. This is why it was so hard for me to move to the United States when I was 11. At the time, I couldn’t understand it. I was mad, even. In what world was moving away from my family the right thing to do? But my family always pushed me to learn, value my education. What better way than to explore the world? Their encouragement surpassed my fear, but at the same time, this is the first time I started to feel the pressure of expectation.
My grandparents and I in 2004 (Photo by Sofia Prieto/CC BY 4.0)
The time I spent here in the U.S. I have done my best to honor my family’s name the best I could. I didn’t want to be a disappointment. At one point, I started to notice that my desire to be perfect became unhealthy. Sleepless nights, endless tears, and a grieving heart. I was being unrealistic, and it shattered my self-esteem. It made me incredibly anxious and scared to try new things out of fear of failure.
This time around, I’m starting to feel the same pressure again. The similarities between traveling to France and coming to the US for the first time strongly resonate in my mind. My thoughts race while they wonder whether I’m good enough to deserve this opportunity. I feel the weight of my ancestors in my shoulders, how can I make them proud? Traveling like this is an immense privilege that I know they wouldn’t even dare to imagine. I’m starting to notice that fear again, the paralysis it leads me to.
This time around, I won’t let the fear stop me. This time around, I will let this experience set me free instead of confine me. Yes, I’m nervous, but most of all I’m excited. Excited to learn, to live, to make mistakes… to be human. I want to use the French I learned for so long yet pronounce incorrectly, I want to dramatically sing along the words of “Non, je ne regrette rien” by Édith Piaf while walking in Paris, I want to go to the Louvre and spend hours analyzing art, I want to get lost in the metro, hell, I want to be licked by a cow… but most of all, I want to be grateful and present in the moment.
Although I am in this class to learn more about the language and culture, I am here mostly to set myself free from expectation. As I studied the French language and culture for many years, France is, in a sense, a fairytale to me. La cité de l’amour. I want to take what my already conceived notions of France are and expand them to places I can’t even imagine. There is not one particular thing I’m looking forward to the most, instead I want to be open to every single experience, as sometimes the best things in life are unexpected. The fear of letting go that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.
“We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen”Paulo Coelho