As a student at Universidad de Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia, Daniela Bernal (’24) was considering some transfer options to change her academic path. After four days in Dubuque, Iowa, she found a place that seemed to fit.
While visiting her sister, Nathalia Bernal Lugo (’21), at Loras for her graduation, Dani spent four days on campus meeting people and getting the feel of a new culture. It left an impression on her.
“It was nice and a totally different experience that I wasn’t expecting. I thought, ‘why not Loras?’” she said. “I applied and was accepted within two weeks. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave home, but Loras made it easier because they made the process smooth and were so welcoming.
Originally from Bogota, Dani went from studying industrial engineering to pursuing a degree in business and marketing. That pursuit has translated into her life outside the classroom as she is the co-chair of marketing in the College’s League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) chapter.
“It’s funny because everything is connected somehow. I was initially invited to attend by the organization’s vice president and now I am one of the board members,” she said.
Claire Mendez (’22) was vice president of LULAC when she invited Dani to attend a LULAC meeting. That would lead Dani to not only become a member of the organization but to build strong friendships with fellow students. From study sessions to cultural programs, LULAC helped her find a small aspect of her culture on campus.
As the current vice president and former marketing co-chair with Diego Rodriguez (’25), Dani is helping to build LULAC’s social media presence and works with a marketing committee to try and engage more people.
“It has been a great fit for me. I am passionate about advocating for social issues but I also have formed strong bonds with others on campus through LULAC. That is what the organization is trying to do: make everyone feel welcome while getting to know other cultures. There is a great sense of community,” she explained.
While connecting with her fellow students has been a vital part of her Loras experience, Dani also cites the important role that faculty and staff played in helping her transition to life in a new country.
“The different culture, people, and language took some time to get used to. The staff and faculty are welcoming and always checking in to make sure things are going okay. It’s those little things that make a difference. So many people were open to get to know me, and that made the transition go so well,” she said.
While it still feels early to focus on her life after Loras, the Breitbach Catholic Leaders & Thinkers scholar does have a long-term goal in mind with the possibility for more international experiences. “My dream job would be a brand manager and developing a brand for a company,” she said. “I would be open to staying in the United States and working, but I might also look at getting a master’s degree in Europe. I am open to a lot so we will see.”