MCAN Reflections 2010 - Brisa Zubia '05

Life after Carleton: Northfield Option – Brisa (Garcia) Zubia '05

For most of us Carls, life after Carleton includes jobs, families, travel and nostalgia for our undergraduate days.  But for a rare few, it also means waking up to the smell of Malt o'Meal, planning the morning commute around Defeat of Jesse James Days traffic, and turning into a “Townie” by living in Northfield. 

When she graduated from  Thomas Kelly High School in Chicago's  Brighton Park neighborhood in 2001, Brisa (Garcia) Zubia joined Carleton's first Posse Scholars cohort.   Coming to college in small-town Minnesota from an urban high school that was 90% Latino was a bit of culture shock for Brisa, but she relished it.  She sounds a bit surprised when she admits that she “always felt welcome and overall had a great experience at Carleton”.  “As a first generation college student, you must learn to fend for yourself...Carleton really made me value the way my parents raised me.”

Upon arriving on campus, Brisa soon immersed herself in Carleton life, joining both LASO (Latin American Student Organization) and EBONY.  Brisa is particularly proud of her time spent working with  La Escuelita (a program that connects Carleton students with  the children of the Latino community in Northfield,  La Escuelita provides mentors and educational opportunities, including tutoring, events on the Carleton campus, and trips to the Twin Cities).   Fully engaged in student life, she set to work completing her Latin American Studies major.

During her junior year, Brisa decided that in addition to completing her degree, she also wanted to start a family.  If you think your senior Comps were difficult, imagine writing Comps while 6 months pregnant and changing diapers for your teething infant.  While it seems a nearly impossible task, Brisa managed to find a balance between home and academics, graduating (as she always planned) with the class of 2005. 

Brisa knows she couldn't have succeeded on her unique path without a lot of encouragement from the Carleton community.   She says that one thing she truly values from her Carleton experience is the support she received from faculty and staff.  “So many students don't feel they can go to faculty or staff...They try to shoulder their burdens on their own.  They need to learn to ask for help.”

After graduation, Brisa returned to Chicago for a few years. But in 2007 she returned to Northfield with her husband Armando and their children Belinda, Adrian and Aiden.  When asked why she came back, Brisa lights up.  “It's safe...friendly.  When you come from big cities, that's important.  And I LOVE the school system here.”

Brisa finds Northfield very nurturing, supportive and family-oriented.  Her family is active with the Northfield Arts Guild, Ice Arena and Community Action Center.  Even so, she admits that sometimes it is frustrating to be the only Latino family on the block.  “You can't help but feel judged by your skin color... there is pressure to represent your culture in a 'right' way.”

Brisa is very positive about Northfield's community of color.  There is an  “...instant bond when you meet people of color.  You realize you are not the only one.  You feel a connection because you know that you are dealing with the same issues without having to bring them up.”

In December of 2009, Brisa joined the Office of Intercultural and International Life (OIIL) at Carleton.  When asked if it is weird being back, Brisa says, “It's eye-opening to see the other side...so many more students open up to you since you were there, and know what they're dealing with.  There is a lot of pressure on students of color.  We know we are here because we earned our place...But there is the constant struggle of defending our right to be on campus.  We are not filling quotas.  Students of color here realize their potential but feel they need to keep proving themselves to others, when proving they can make it to themselves should be the main concern.”

As told to Anita Fisher Egge '94 (October 2010)