Anaïs Gurrola

I realized that I bring value to this school, and I want prospective students to know that they belong here.

Anaïs Gurrola ?19

Class Year

BA ’19

Hometown

Bellevue, Washington

Major

Sociology and Anthropology

Extracurriculars

Spanish Club, Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME), Gente Latina Unida (GLU)

Overseas study

Alicante, Spain

Life After L&C, May 2020 Update

What ended up being your declared major/minor?

In the end, I had to drop my ethnic studies minor. It was a really hard decision, but I was in a deep pit in terms of my mental health. I hold a lot of illnesses so life is harder for me sometimes. It broke my heart to drop my ethnic studies colloquium class. But, as I was tearfully calling my mom about it, she told me that I am ethnic studies. And she was completely right. I didn’t need a title to show that I live and breathe ethnic studies. I was still able to be a cochair for the Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies and the ethnic studies student assistant.

So, in the end, my declared major was my beloved sociology and anthropology (SOAN). I truly could not imagine myself in another major (except ethnic studies! Which you can major in! It just takes a lot of planning that I didn’t know about until it was too late.). I wrote a beautiful SOAN thesis that is very close to home, so much so that I still think about it.

What have you been doing since graduation?

A week after my December graduation, I took a plane to Munich. I didn’t tell most people where I was going. I just went. (On Christmas Eve, no less!) I was gone for 5 weeks. I also spent time in Spain. I saved up money the summer before to go myself. I have a lot of pride in doing things by myself, and it felt so freeing to just go. I realized in my last year of LC that I truly could do anything and go anywhere. What is the point to pay attention to all the limits placed on you? They have no power.

My plane left from Munich back to Seattle. It was early February at this point, and Coronavirus precautions were already in place in Germany. There was a big sign for arrivals and there was extra security leaving the country. I remember being astounded how there weren’t any precautions in American airports when I landed.

When I got home, I decided to chill for a while. I believed that I needed to rest and not find a job immediately. Rest is revolutionary in a capitalist machine anyway. However, I did have a side gig lined up. Before I graduated the wonderful, incredible Rebecca Lingafelter (associate professor of theatre) connected me with artistic director/playwright/actress Cristi Miles. They are working on a play about the U.S./Mexico border. Rebecca saw my thesis presentation and thought I could be of use. As a result, I got an amazing opportunity to work on a play! I was treated as an equal who was an expert on liminality and Anzaldúan theories. So, as I was chilling at home, I also worked on research for the play.

My plan was to do temp jobs and teach abroad in Spain in October 2020. I interviewed for a temporary position in outreach for medical transportation in late February. I got the job! It was so exciting because it was at a nonprofit helping people, which is exactly what I wanted to do. I went to colleges, hospitals, houseless shelters, and libraries talking to people about Medicaid transportation. Most of the time I was in the field, but I also worked in an office. (Office culture was certainly different from LC culture!) February 29 was the first day someone died of COVID-19, and it was about 15 minutes away from my house, only 4 days after I started work. In early March I was still doing outreach, but the hospitals had higher security, so I was later told to stay in the office. I was eventually laid off in mid-March.

As I write this, I continue to stay at home. It’s mid-May now. I got accepted to teach in Spain in October, but there is a very high chance that the program will be canceled. Which I’m okay with, because I’m learning to be at peace with uncertainty.

How did Lewis & Clark prepare you for your life after graduation?

LC prepared me in many ways. One of which is my writing skills. That is essential. I would be praised at my job for my writing skills. Also, email etiquette is so important. LC opened the door to many opportunities, such as working at a disability rights center in Spain when I studied abroad or working in a biology lab studying drosophila (fruit flies) and the effect of resveratrol (wine) on them. My boss told me that my resume was all over the place, in a good way! Thanks to a liberal arts education, I was able to be quite well rounded.

LC, despite its classism and elitism, helped radicalize me. Especially in SOAN, I learned exactly how America keeps its imperial power, encourages fascism, perpetuates harmful capitalism, and continues to enslave and kill black and brown people. I always knew about racism and my own interactions with race, being a person of color. But LC helped me map out how my own internalized racism and homophobia came to be.

I also grew to be a stronger person. I learned more about how to advocate for myself, especially as a disabled brown person. Professors often would not understand my need for accommodations and I needed to explain myself to them, often. This is not to say all professors were like this—I also had wonderful, amazing professors who truly cared about me and helped me to become a better version of myself, and for that, I am forever grateful.

LC also helped me to just be. The environment encouraged me to experiment with self expression. I had my hair dyed fun colors for all my four years at LC, and almost always wore glitter on my face. I didn’t want to change myself for the “working world.” If a job doesn’t like me for my fun hair, then that job is not for me. I don’t want to fall in the pit of conformity.

Now that you’re out of college, what would you say is the most important thing you learned at Lewis & Clark?

People like to brag about being tired, working too hard, and their time spent in the library. Ignore them. Breathe. Do not beat yourself up for going slow. Work the system, make your own system, and reach out.

I was in really dark mental places during college, and so were so many others. I learned how to inhabit my darkness, and how to get out of it. And not only that, but to help others get out of it too.

Community is also the most important thing for me. Those nights with my beloved friends helped me learn to love myself and love others and use academia to learn more about myself and ancestral wounds.

I also learned the “smart people talk,” which is a language you have to pick up in college, and golly was it a learning curve, especially as a first-gen student. But in the end, it did help me professionally. I also learned that “being professional” is a lie and is coded whiteness. I saw it even more clearly working in an office environment in postgrad.

What are your career goals?

My life work is to love myself. Career-oriented living is not the way to live. My job will keep me fed and clothed and with a roof over my head, yes, but I’m not going to let it define me either. I remember my host mom told me “Si soy panadera por todo mi vida, soy panadera,” which means “If I’m a baker my whole life, I’m a baker.” There is so much pressure and worry to find a job after graduation. But this is a time for upheaval, a time for mutual aid, a time to break down systems that continue to kill us, especially during COVID-19.

My goal is to ultimately help people, be anti-capitalist, and an abolitionist, whether that be working in a nonprofit, teaching, working at an ice cream shop, or helping with a play.

I haven’t thought too much about my future, I’m letting uncertainty hold me right now.

Life at L&C

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Hidden, loving, critical

What’s your favorite class? How has it expanded your knowledge?

One foundational class would be Introduction to Sociology with Maryann Bylander, who is also my advisor. That class really convinced me to become a SoAn major. It showed me the institutional and structural forces that perpetuate inequality. It really allowed me to see how inequality works. I learned that sociology was all about making the familiar strange, and I love that. I began to look at the society we lived in and started to see little quirks and began to question why exactly things are the way they are. The class was also interactive, it wasn’t just lecturing. I remember one time we played a game to show the structural inequality of the United States.

I also took International Migration with Maryann Bylander. We read this book called The Land of the Open Graves. It was so impactful and emotional. It shed light on migrational practices and atrocities that often go unsaid and try to be hidden (cough cough prevention by deterrence, I’m looking at you). Everyone needs to read it.

I know you said one class but there are so many good ones. Last one, I promise! Last semester I took The Anthropology of Suffering with Sepideh Bajracharya, and it was an important class. I took the class because I heard incredible things about Sepideh, and I completely understand why so many people love her. That class really challenged me and made me question the world and pain itself. I was pushed not only intellectually but in other areas of my life. I was able to connect my experiences with the class, I began to see theory in aspects that felt taboo, or too painful to reach out and look at, to touch. The curriculum had people of color, women of color, and queer women, which is so important when the majority of bourgeois academia contains a disproportionate amount of white voices. One of my favorite theorists we read was Gloria Anzaldúa, who wrote about life as a Latina women and a queer women. Her work on borders, cultural identity, language, intergenerational trauma, mytho-historical symbols and art had such an impact on me, and it continues. I loved her so much that I wrote my final paper on her work, and her theory lives and thrives today. I also really enjoyed the book Sepideh assigned us, Life Beside Itself, which completely reframed my thoughts on death. Righteous Dopefiend also transformed my way of thinking of houseless people and addiction. Even though this class was about suffering, it was healing.

“The Ray Warren Symposium acts as a catalyst each year to remind students of their privilege, but also bring great minds and conversations together.”
What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

There is a fly-in program called Pioneer Weekend that is geared toward people of color and first-generation students. Everything was paid for: the transportation to Portland, room and board, all the fun activities they planned for us, and workshops! It was incredible, everyone was so kind. I really felt wanted.  

I also have test anxiety, and as a result, I didn’t do well on the ACT. However, L&C contacted me and said that a test score doesn’t determine intelligence. They offered for me to do an alternate portfolio instead, which was compiled of essays and labs. I loved that L&C reached out to me about that option and that they want all types of intelligence to be represented at L&C.  

L&C also offered a lot of scholarships and grants, which was super helpful to alleviate the financial stress.

What was your involvement in the Ray Warren Symposium? What drew you to that event?

This year, I worked as the ethnic studies program assistant, so being a part of the symposium is a part of my job. I worked making flyers, editing the schedule for the symposium, putting up posters around campus and off campus, attending planning meetings, and taking photos at most of the panels during the events. However, I wasn’t just doing this because it was my job, but because race is really important to me. Some people can go about their life without having to think about race, they don’t have to worry about police brutality, they don’t have to worry about getting deported, they don’t have to worry about going to a school where they are the minority. The Ray Warren Symposium acts as a catalyst each year to remind students of their privilege, but also bring great minds and conversations together.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

When students first come here, especially first-generation students (like myself), they often feel dumb. Elitist language runs rampant at L&C, and sometimes it can be isolating. I felt like that when I first came to L&C, my peers were using such big words and speaking in such an eloquent manner, I didn’t know if I truly belonged. However, I realized that I bring value to this school, and I want prospective students to know that they belong here.

Also, this is the perfect time to do something crazy! Change up your look! Try something new! The time is now! When I got to L&C, I slowly started doing more things that I would be too nervous to do before. For example, I began dying my hair various colors, wearing bright, fun makeup. Also, not to mention the copious amounts of glitter I wear.

What’s your best Lewis & Clark memory so far?

There are so many. They all involve my friends, all the adventures we have. Ranging from staying up late at Watty (nickname for Waztek Library), to exploring downtown together, they always bring such joy.

I remember one specific time in my first year (I was very naïve), I wanted to test out my pepper spray. I figured a good way to test it out would be to spray some in the garbage. Later my roommate and I start coughing so badly that we needed to leave the room. The funny thing is that it took us both a second to figure out that it was the pepper spray. My roommate from freshman year and I still joke about it today, and it’s been over two years!

How do you manage stress?

I think people often undervalue and stigmatize crying, but I think that it is very valuable to cry sometimes. It is such a good release of emotion! Another good release would be laughing. If I’m having a really stressful day, I make it a goal for myself to laugh. If I go to sleep without laughing then I won’t let myself go to sleep. I will find one of those “try-not-to-laugh videos” on YouTube or grab a friend and make them tell me joke until I laugh. I’m not just talking about a normal laugh, I’m talking about those laughs where you can’t breathe, those laughs that make your side hurt, those laughs that make you cry.

Where do you find community on campus?

The Office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (IME) is literally my best friend.

Do you have a job on campus? If so, how do you fit work into your schedule?

I have two. This year I was the ethnic studies program assistant (as mentioned earlier) and a Pioneer Success Institute (PSI) Co-Facilitator, in which I helped first-year students adapt to L&C life. My sophomore year I only worked one, as the ethnic studies program assistant. In my first year, I also worked two jobs. My first one was working in a biology lab and my second one was working in the Academic English Studies (AES) department, where I worked with international students with English. Time management is your best friend. I personally like to keep busy, being idle actually makes me more nervous.  

How has Lewis & Clark has changed you?

L&C has helped me to be more critical, to problematize everything I see. L&C has helped me to speak out against injustices, while also understanding them at a fundamental and structural level.