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For many young students and professionals, a natural reaction to a dramatic change would be to oppose it, backtrack from it or even avoid it altogether: but not Valerie Esteva ’24.

The Class of 2024 graduate not only embraces change, she loves it. And as a recipient of a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, she’s preparing to dive into the next chapter of her life in Spain.

Since 2011, 14 Emmanuel College students have earned Fulbright Scholarships. The Fulbright U.S Student Program is a cultural exchange program through which scholars travel to a host country where they pursue their studies, research or teach English while exploring the new environment.

Esteva, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in psychology, credits her parents and her upbringing in Venezuela with her adaptability in the face of new challenges.

“Change is important for growth. [It’s a] whole new adventure and I’m so excited because you should never stop learning,” she said.

Valerie is an excellent example of the work ethic and empathy that I love to see in Emmanuel students. From her first year, she fully engaged with learning while participating in activities that contribute to the vibrancy of our campus. She wants to learn and help people – I’m happy the Fulbright commission recognized her strengths.

Whitney Wilson, Senior Lecturer of English, Communications and Writing

Following Family Ties

In September, Esteva leaves for Madrid where she will teach English. While she knows a whole new country and culture is a big change, she is excitedly awaiting the opportunity to meet new people, explore a new culture and continue to grow as a person. It helps that she loves working with kids as well: “I know I’ll learn from them as much as they will learn from me,” she said.

The self-identified extrovert credits her family as her support system that has spurred her on throughout her life and her academic career. Her parents emigrated from Venezuela and she was born in Miami, growing up with Spanish as her first language. Esteva described her upbringing as one of “resilience,” through which her parents always reminded her to keep moving forward.

“I cherish my roots a lot,” Esteva said, “I’m very proud of being Hispanic.” Those roots have played a huge part in her journey leading her to Venezuela, Canada, Boston, and soon, Madrid. Her father and brother both attended college in Boston, for example, which got her acquainted with the city and eventually led her to attend Emmanuel College.

Her mother's side of the family always kept her connected to Spain. Esteva said she grew up hearing her mother and grandmother's stories about Spain before they left the country – and she has always felt drawn back to it.

Val is a generally positive person who is passionate in whatever she does. In class, she was always receptive to feedback and willing to learn from her mistakes. This allowed her to foster a growth mindset, which is critical for long-term success when individuals face new and unfamiliar environments such as her Fulbright experience in Spain.

Dr. Nathan Lau, Assistant Professor of Chemistry

Perfect Timing for a New Journey

The Fulbright opportunity couldn't have come at a better time for Esteva. Now as she prepares to be in Spain from September to May 2025, she’ll be able to apply to medical schools and continue pursuing her dream of becoming a surgeon when she returns to the States.

Until then, Esteva won’t stop trying to build connections with people, particularly as she works at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for the next few months as a clinical research coordinator, in addition to taking a much-needed breath to rest and reset before her trip. She was relieved that she didn’t need to choose between traveling and pursuing her dream through medical school – now she gets to do both. 

That work toward becoming a top physician won’t stop while she’s abroad, either. In her free time when she’s not teaching, Esteva plans to volunteer and learn all there is to know about Spain’s healthcare system. Having seen many experience a lack of access to healthcare in Venezuela, gotten familiar with the hospitals Boston has to offer and soon building an understanding of how healthcare works in Spain, Esteva looks forward to using that knowledge to become the best medical professional she can be.

I was elated when I read that Valerie had received her Fulbright Scholarship. It is well-deserved! I know she will be a great ambassador for Emmanuel College in Spain and that she will make the most of her experience.

Idoia Martinez-del Mozo, Senior Lecturer of Spanish

Reminiscing About Esteva's Emmanuel Experience

While the sciences were her career focus, Esteva said the liberal arts-centered education at Emmanuel College allowed her to become a “more well-rounded individual,” and set her apart from other graduates in her field. She loved the opportunity to explore classes that piqued her interest, including “World Religions,” where she got a jumpstart on her love for learning about other cultures.

The opportunities to immerse herself in Emmanuel’s on-campus community were another high point of Esteva’s academic career.

She got involved in as many on-campus endeavors as she could: including peer tutoring, becoming a Resident Assistant, a STEM peer mentor, Treasurer of HUELLAS (Helping Unite Emmanuel Latinos Lead & Achieve Success), member of the Tribeta Honor Society and more.

“I wanted to become the best version of myself [in college] and Emmanuel helped me to achieve that,” said Esteva.

She expressed gratitude toward the Emmanuel faculty as well, who she said were always open to supporting students. “[At Emmanuel] they really want to get to know you, and not just who you are as a student. You can really feel how passionate the faculty is toward supporting us.”

Reflecting on graduation, Esteva said she was in shock and disbelief at how quickly her time at Emmanuel went. In her senior year she grew a lot and felt plenty of emotions over the weekend because of her gratitude towards her “home away from home.”

“I cannot say enough – I just want to say thanks to Emmanuel because I would not be where I am without its support,” Esteva said.