Yuri Laguna


I first found out about Yuri Laguna, an international student here at Delta State, through her roommate, Verity Poglayen. Verity briefed me on Yuri’s backstory and I was immediately intrigued.


The first time I met Laguna, was for our interview. She was dressed very casually, in a fuzzy sweater and jeans. It had been cold that day and it had rained a lot. We met on the second floor of the H.L. Nowell Union building here on campus. I had just finished doing observations for my education classes for the day. I rode the elevator up to the second floor impatiently. I was working on borrowed time as I had an appointment right after the interview. With my muddy shoes and my hand stretched out, I greeted Yuri. She was polite and gestured for me to sit down and join her.


Yuri asked what the article would be about exactly. And I was honest, I told her I was not exactly sure. Before Verity had told me about Yuri, I had no idea what I would write about, but now, I wanted to learn more about Yuri and maybe write about her life and the differences in the cultures she was apart of, but still, I was not sure.


I told Yuri that I had prepared some guiding questions and we went from there.


She began to explain to me how a 20-year-old, Japanese-Spanish girl from Bilbao, Spain found her way to Cleveland, Miss.


When Yuri was in school in Spain, she attended IES Jose Zapatero Dominguez. It was September 2013 when Yuri moved to Brooklyn, Iowa and became to attend school in America. It was hard for Yuri when she first started school at Brooklyn-Gernsey-Malcom High School. She started school a month late, and although her father had spoken English to her growing up and she had studied British English, she struggled with communicating with her teachers and classmates. She explained to me that people who are native English speakers talk fast, even here in the South, and it is hard to keep up with what is being said. She also spoke of how British English and American English are very different due to the differences in vocabulary and accents. When she entered school, she has about a month behind all the other children at Brooklyn-Gernsey-Malcom High School. She had to catch up on the work from August and also deal with the struggles of not being fluent in American English.


Yuri said one of the people who really reached out and helped her was her history teacher **FIND OUT NAME** (JR Glenn), who was also the basketball coach. He helped set her up as the basketball manager. This was a turning point for Yuri. She told me how even in Spain, she was very shy, but soon after becoming the basketball manager, she began to become more outgoing. She said during her high school career, she worked as a manager for the basketball, football, and track teams. She also apart of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) and the National Honors Society. She said that she graduated in the top of her class, with the rank of 4th out of fifty-two students and a grade point average of 3.9.


Yuri’s father left America after three years of working at Brooklyn-Gernsey-Malcom as a teacher. By the time that her father was leaving, however, Yuri did not want to leave America. She had grown to love the culture that surrounded her here in America. She decided to get a student visa and remain here in the United States without her family.


After graduating high school, Yuri decided to go to Indian Hills Community College. While there, Yuri met one of her now closest friends, Marta Lopez, who was also from Spain. It was from Marta Lopez that Yuri learned about Delta State University, here in Cleveland, Miss. Marta was considering transferring to Delta State. She told Yuri about the tuition rates at Delta State and the scholarship that Delta State offers to those who are apart of Phi Theta Kappa. As Yuri was already a member of Phi Theta Kappa and she missed being in a warmer climate, similar to the one that Mississippi could offer, Yuri decided to move to another place that was completely foreign to her.


Yuri beamed with pride as she told me how she finished her two year Associate Degree in only one year before transferring to Delta State. She not only finished her Associate Degree in half the time, but she also graduated with a grade point average of 3.7.


Yuri is now a full-time student here at Delta State. She is a senior and is finishing working towards a Bachelor’s Degree. Yuri is majoring in Biology under the Physical Therapy program offered here at Delta State. She is still apart of Phi Theta Kappa and is also a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta.


After receiving her Bachelor’s Degree, Yuri plans on taking a gap year and working before going on to graduate school for Physical Therapy.


Yuri says that it has been six years since she moved to America, and in that time, the culture and people here have helped to shape her into the outgoing individual she is today.


When Yuri reminisced about Spain and Japan, she became somber, if only for a moment. She told me, “You know, most people go home on the weekends here, but that’s not a choice for me.” She went on to explain how when she lived in Spain, she would visit her family in Japan three months out of the year, but now, she only sees her family in Japan every other year. She goes home to Spain one year during the summer months and then the next summer, she will go to Japan and visit her family there. She says that it gets hard without her family here and that she misses her home a lot.

She sees the cultures of Spain, Japan, and America as large aspects of who she is and who she identifies as. She loves all aspects of the cultures that have helped shape her, whether those cultures and places are all around or are thousands of miles away.