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Sometimes you learn the most important life lessons by stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Claire Ortiz, an incoming first-year student at La Salle University, was thousands of miles away from home when she realized perfection—in academics and in life—wasn’t everything.
“Before I went to France, I was a perfectionist at the top of my class. I worked really, really hard,” said Ortiz, a high-achieving student from Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pa. “And in France it was kind of like a step back to realize, ‘I’m not the best here,’ and I had to work even harder to do my best. It really taught me that it’s OK not to be perfect at everything.”
Ortiz will study nursing at La Salle, where she joins the University Honors Program. While studying in France for her junior year on a scholarship from American Field Service (AFS), an international youth exchange program offering study abroad opportunities for American students in more than 45 countries, Ortiz stayed with a host family that operated a cherry orchard in the town of Beausemblant, located about 30 minutes from the city of Lyon, near the French Alps. She took classes in the literature unit at a local high school with about 20 other students. It became clear to Ortiz that studying French in high school and being conversant in French in everyday life are two very different things. Eventually, Ortiz said, she found her way to fluency.
“Imagine English class with really hard text, but it’s in French,” she said. “After that, it was amazing. Just being able to converse more easily and fluently, I could learn new things and feel happy with the way I was speaking.”
A new academic journey will begin with the fall semester, when Ortiz enters La Salle’s nursing program. Living on campus and experiencing life as a Philadelphian, along with the cultural opportunities available through the Honors Lab, are aspects of college life about which she is most excited.
“I’m excited to walk around the city and experience it,” said Ortiz. “There are a lot of markets you can go to and I like to shop local, and I’m really excited to visit museums. That’s one of my favorite things that my mom and I do. I went to the Art Museum already. I’m excited to see more of that.”
Ortiz’s career goal is to become a nurse anesthetist, a path she arrived on after having an opportunity to shadow a friend’s father in that career during her first year of high school.
“Right then and there,” she said, “I decided that’s what I wanted to do.”
The COVID-19 pandemic creates an even stronger pull toward her career path, she said, and has “given me greater resolve to enter the nursing field. I’m excited to be able to jump into work right out of college. I know there’s a need for nurses, and I’m really happy to help.”