Alexandra Noguera: Building a Home through Passion and Involvement
Alexandra Noguera is a third year student from Caracas, Venezuela studying Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering. She was previously the Vice-President Finance for The Humanitarian Organization of Latin American Students (H.O.L.A.S.) and will be the Vice-President Student Issues for the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA) for the 2016/17 academic year. She has a passion for humanitarian work and teaching others about her Latin American culture.
How has your experience been so far at Carleton?
My experience at Carleton has been amazing. I have grown a lot in my time here because of the wide range of opportunities I have had. Life is more than what you can learn in a classroom, and at Carleton I have had the opportunity to get all components. This has been a place for me to go to class and study engineering, but also to serve my community and the world, while learning and meeting incredible people in the process. On campus, I’ve been involved in sports, clubs and societies, volunteering and currently serve as Vice President Student Issues for CUSA.
Carleton’s diversity has also contributed to making this experience great. There are people from many different countries and backgrounds that are open to share their culture with the community. I joke with my friends about if feeling like the United Nations. I believe our diversity is one of our greater strengths!
Tell me about some of the changes you experienced or had to make coming from Venezuela to Canada.
Venezuela and Canada are very different. I have never lived in a country where the weather changes with the season. In Caracas, the city where I come from, you can barely notice the temperature changes throughout the year. You wear the same kind of clothes all year round. Canada, does not only have seasons, but the weather changes drastically between them. I personally don’t like the winter. It is very cold and the daylight lasts for such a short period of time. That says a lot about Canada though, because besides the weather, most of us think that Canada is still amazing.
Another thing that was different was my interaction with others. The language difference did affect me a lot. I am not as fluent in English as I am in Spanish, and when I first came to Canada it was much worse. For this reason, it took me a while to make friends. However, by getting involved in different activities like playing soccer, participation in club activities and later on assuming leadership positions, I eventually overcame it.
What do you miss the most about being back home?
What I miss the most about being back home is my family. I miss being able to share my joys with them especially because here, I have grown so much, changed so much, and experienced so many things that are incredible. I would love to have my family beside me to share all these moments because I know it would make them as happy as they make me.
Why did you choose to study Biomedical Mechanical Engineering?
This story is actually pretty interesting because I did a lot of research about the program before coming here. When I was back in Venezuela, I studied at a very ‘flower power’ school. It was about doing humanitarian work and making an impact, but it was also very strong in the sciences. My Dad is an Engineer. So when I was very young, at the age that kids question everything, I would ask him questions like ‘Why does everything fall on the ground?’ He would answer something like, ‘It’s because of gravity.’ He would actually explain these complex concepts to me in a very simple way. When I was in elementary school, I already knew what friction was; things of that nature that not a lot of kids know.
When I got to high school, I had to take Physics and it turned out to be my favorite class. While everyone else was saying ‘What is this class? I hate it!’, I was thinking ‘This class is beautiful’, because I was putting into practice everything my Dad had taught me. One day, we had a theoretical Physics quiz, and I didn’t know we had a quiz that day. I didn’t know the theory behind anything we had learned in class, so when I was answering the questions, I answered them in formulas. My teacher was impressed, so she sat with me and asked, ‘Alex, how do you know this?’ That was the moment I realized that subjects like Physics and Engineering related topics were easy for me. That is one of the reasons I realized Engineering is kind of my thing because I find it super interesting and it was also not that hard for me.
It has always been important to me to make an impact, help somehow, or give a little bit back to the world. That’s why I chose to add biomedical, because I get to help a lot of people by being involved in the medical field.
How did you get involved in humanitarian work?
I have been involved in humanitarian work since I was very little, especially because my mom has a huge heart. I remember she volunteered for an organization called Fundana, which is ‘Foundation for the Child that needs Protection’. During Christmas, she would bring kids over from the orphanage because the people who took care of them had to go home to their families. We would spend Christmas together; it was a super cute experience. Sometimes, she would call me on a Friday and say, ‘Alex I need you to find seven friends because I invited the kids from the orphanage to the pool today’, and I would literally be begging my friends to help me. So I guess that’s how I started to get involved. I always believed it was important to help others and the more opportunities God gives you, the more you have to give back. That’s my personal philosophy of life.
You previously held an executive position on H.O.L.A.S. Can you talk about what that organization does and its role in the Carleton community?
Last year, I was the VP Finance for H.O.L.A.S. and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. H.O.L.A.S. is the Humanitarian Organization of Latin American Students but more than an organization, it’s a family. That is the cute thing about H.O.L.A.S. The members are from all over the world. You don’t have to be from Latin America, you just have to be interested in learning about Latin American culture. We hold weekly meetings, which is cool, because you always get to see the same people. We talk about things that are going on Latin America, we have Spanish lessons, we go out together, host karaoke nights were we sing Spanish songs, and we hold two really big events that are our fundraisers.
The humanitarian aspect of our organization depends on our annual Locura Latina fundraiser. Locura Latina (in all their editions) are our biggest events, they happen twice a year and are amazing. This year we had around 900 attendees for Locura Latina Gala edition. Every year we fundraise $10,000 – 20,000 which we donate to projects. This year we had an amazing team and fundraised $19,000 helping humanitarian causes in Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica.
Do you have a favorite moment or a moment that has stuck out to you the most in your time here?
The strongest and best moment here, was not a particular situation, but the moment that I felt like I was finally home here. It was a day I was just walking and reflecting upon my life, everything that had happened, and how things had changed in the three years I have been here. I realized finally it feels like home. That was my favorite moment in my entire time here.
This interview has been condensed and edited.