The first thing Ana Valderrama remembers thinking when she arrived at the Quad by way of South America: Why is everyone smiling?
“Coming from a region where things take a great effort to make, and 30 percent of the population doesn’t even have a reasonable place to live, I didn’t understand what kind of happiness was happening there," she says.
Now the associate dean of the School of Architecture at Argentina’s Rosario National University, Valderrama (’13) came to the UI to pursue a master’s in landscape architecture.
Her memories of C-U are mostly pleasant ones — “squirrels running along with people,” changing seasons and WiFi everywhere.
“However,” she says, “there was a terrible thing that didn’t fit with that ideal atmosphere: the coffee. I couldn’t find any place to have a reasonable macchiato without taking the risk of asking for the shoot.
“The first month, I rented a room at a beautiful blue wood house in front of the Carle Park, and then, an apartment in front of a Unitarian church. A particular vision about the relationship between culture and nature was revealed with those two images taken from my windows.
“While in Urbana, I discovered new ways of public space appropriations like garage sales and farmer’s markets.
“I am grateful for everybody I met, and the opportunities the university gave to me. In particular, I want to thank Professor David Hays, whose intelligence, and academic and human generosity enriched my way of thinking.”