Juan Carlos Archila
Degree and Class Year
What three words would you use to describe L&C?
What’s your favorite class? How has it expanded your knowledge?
I really enjoyed Professor Sarah Warren’s Gender/Sexuality in Latin America class last spring. It was a Sociology and Anthropology course that incorporated elements of history, ethnic studies, and geography, all of which helped to further our analysis of the broader topic of gender in Latin America. It allowed me to explore the culture that I grew up in from a new, outside perspective and I began to realize just how fascinating and complex Latin American society is.
Who is your mentor on campus? Why do you consider this person your mentor?
I would consider Samantha Durán to be my mentor and one of my closest friends at L&C. I first met her while on a retreat by the IME Office my second week as a freshman and knew right away that she is a caring and supportive person. It wasn’t until we were in some of the same classes that we began to really talk and get to know each other. We connected through our similar backgrounds, and she was always proof to me that with the right mindset and support, you can accomplish the things you set your mind to. Sam keeps herself very busy with her studies and her commitments to sports and extracurriculars, and I can never explain how someone could balance their time between so many things. She’s taught me how to take advantage of the many resources this school offers its students in order to set myself up for success.
What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?
When I was considering colleges, I knew my preference would be to study at a small liberal arts school away from home. I found Lewis & Clark and read that it had lots of the things I was looking for in schools. I had also never been to this part of the country before but had always seen beautiful pictures of the Pacific Northwest, and it was exciting to consider possibly coming all the way out here to study.
I was also very fortunate to have participated in Pioneer Weekend, a fly-in program Lewis & Clark offers its admitted students of color and/or first-generation students. I stayed on campus for two nights, made some friends, got to know the school environment, and even spent time exploring downtown Portland. I felt a strong sense of community that really made me feel comfortable, and after receiving a good financial aid package, I was excited to know I’d be moving out West.
If you have studied or will study overseas while at Lewis & Clark, how did you choose your program? What did your overseas study add to your L&C experience so far?
Even before I was officially an L&C student, I knew I was going to find a way to study abroad. Deciding on programs to go on proved to be a very challenging process for me because I knew that each program I was interested in would offer me completely different experiences, and it was hard for me to narrow my options down. In the end, I knew that I would need to study abroad in some Spanish-speaking country because it’s required for my major. I’ve never been to South America, and once I considered going abroad to Chile I realized that living in Santiago would give me an urban city experience while still being within close proximity to the mountains, the ocean, and beautiful open areas. Having never lived in Latin America myself, I knew I would really enjoy being immersed in this new culture while actively bettering my Spanish.
I’m also very fortunate to have had enough space in my graduation plan to consider going abroad for a full year. I was super excited to study in Chile, but I was also determined to see if I could find a way to participate in another overseas program that called my attention. It’s always been a dream of mine to travel to Australia, and once I looked into the Australia regional area study program, I knew it would be a dream come true if I could participate. The program studies the development of modern Australian society while also considering the country’s history, the culture of its Aboriginal people, the various ecosystems, and it even has a component that allows students to research a topic of interest. I’m currently eagerly waiting for a response to my application from the Overseas and Off-Campus Office.
How did you get involved with IME and Campus Living? What has your involvement with those offices added to your L&C experience?
A couple weeks before New Student Orientation, I received an email from the Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) Office asking if I wanted to go on a retreat they offered specifically for first-generation students and/or students of color to get to know each other and have conversations focused on academic success. It was a very special weekend for me because coming to a predominantly white area from a place like Chicago, this retreat was the first time I saw so many other students who looked and talked like me, and who also had similar upbringings. We had lots of emotional conversations with each other and with L&C staff about overcoming challenges as POC/first-gen students, and hearing the stories of staff like Angela Gintz and Joe-Barry Gardner really gave me the inspiration I needed to know I could also reach for greatness. The IME Office has offered me a community of people who understand me and who actively work to educate on important social justice topics, and for that I will always be grateful.
Last year as a freshman, I applied to be an RA for this academic year because I wanted to connect with other students in order to help make their experience at Lewis & Clark meaningful and rewarding. After going through the application process, I met lots of the friendly Campus Living staff and could see myself learning and growing through working with them. (Fun fact: although I am currently an RA, I didn’t immediately get the job. I was told I was an alternate, and it wasn’t until a couple weeks before this school year started that I was officially offered the job. For any students who apply to be an RA and are told they’re an alternate, just know that there’s always hope that things will work out in the end!) Since working with Campus Living, I have gained so many skills in interacting with people and managing my time that I know have contributed to my growth as a person. The office itself is really welcoming, and I greatly value the connections I’ve made with both the staff and other RAs.
How did you decide on a major?
I actually love telling this story. I came in as a freshman convinced I would study international affairs, and after doing well in IA 100, I thought I had things all figured out. However, when I was making my graduation plan and considering future classes with my college advisor, I asked to continue taking German classes (since I started off in 301). She found slots in my plan to fit in some German classes along with other IA classes and gen-eds. I then asked if it would be possible to eventually take Spanish classes, just because I knew that at some point I would want to study Spanish again in a classroom setting. My college advisor then looked me dead in the face and asked why I was avoiding the world languages major, and I knew she’d caught me.
I had the thought that many people have: that you need to study something specific that sounds fancy in order to become successful and land an awesome job in the future. My college advisor told me that even if I majored in international affairs, I’d still need to push myself just as hard after graduating to make connections and to find a job. It was clear to both of us that I am truly passionate about continuing to learn German and Spanish, the two languages I speak, and neglecting the world languages major (one that would allow me to essentially double major in both) was ultimately incredibly naive of me. I can now honestly say that I’ve enjoyed all of the classes I’ve taken, and I’m so thankful that Lewis & Clark offers this very special major that turned out to be ideal for me.
What’s your favorite thing about living in Portland?
Portland is so different from what I’m used to back home in Chicago, to the point where it almost feels like a whole new world to me. More than anything, I love the access to all the nature. The air here is some of the cleanest air I’ve ever breathed in my life, and having so many beautiful tall trees and forests closeby is something so new and special to me. From Portland you also have fairly close access to so many landscapes (forests, mountains, ocean, desert, etc.) and for someone like me who craves adventure, it’s super exciting to know I could experience these fairly easily.
I’m also the biggest fan of all of the food you can find in Portland. I’ve had an amazing time trying out different restaurants and dishes in my free time. I especially love all of the dessert options you can find throughout the city! I’ve never been to a place that takes its desserts so seriously, but I have had some of the best ice cream in my life here in Portland. I really wish every place had such amazing dessert options.