Alumni Spotlight: Natalia Laverde

Alumni Spotlight Header_thinNatalialaverde NOW

Before moving to Houston, Natalia used to work as a communication consultant and corporate photographer for the oil industry in Colombia. When her husband was relocated to the Bayou City for work nine years ago, she was determined to improve her English and searched for the best ESL program in town. Not only did she need it to be able to communicate in her new home, but she also had some professional goals of her own. She arrived in Houston with a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications and an MA in Organizational Communication, both from the University of La Sabana in Colombia. Natalia completed levels 4 to 6 of the Rice University Intensive English Program. Several years later, after returning to Colombia, she earned an MA in Social Anthropology from the University of Los Andes. To be accepted, she needed a certain level of English, since the program of studies was mostly in this language. All the articles and research she had to read were written in English. She felt very comfortable reading entire books and articles on anthropology and philosophy. Adding to the list of things she has accomplished in her second language, three years ago, Natalia published a bilingual version of her first children’s book (in Spanish and English, of course), a fable titled ¡Chuik, Tac, Chuik! or Frog’s Leg. “When you study another language”, she says, “you are broadening your cultural spectrum.” By publishing a bilingual book, she also managed to broaden her audience.

Frog's Legs

“Frog’s Leg”, bilingual edition

Natalia ended up living in Houston for five unforgettable years. During that time, she made wonderful friends and connected with amateur and professional photographers. Before relocating to Houston she did analog photography, but then she discovered the marvels of digital photography while taking several workshops in the Glasscock School of Continuing Studies at Rice University and the Houston Center for Photography. English allowed her to communicate and create strong bonds with a fantastic community of photographers in Houston. These associations helped her grow as a photographer and have afforded her the opportunity of participating in several collective exhibitions in Houston. She stills belongs to a photographic group in Houston, which brings her back often for various projects.

Predisposed by her visual sensibility, one of the many things Natalia enjoyed about Texas was its vast plains. “Coming from a country where mountains are all around you, plains seemed to me very exotic and beautiful! I love the immensity of Texas and the Houston horizon and sky!” Actually, the Colombian photographer published a book of photos she took while living in Houston, titled Houston: Del sol a la luna (Houston: From the Sun to the Moon). She refers to this publication as her tribute to Houston, her second home.

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Natalia with her classmates and teacher

Currently Natalia has a photography studio where she develops projects for the private and the public sectors, as well as working on her own fine art photography. Her favorite subjects are nature and landscapes, both natural and urban. Her work has been shown in several exhibitions in the United States and Colombia. Consistent with her commitment to nature conservation, she belongs to the board of directors of Resnatur, a non-governmental organization that enables people to develop environmental and sustainable projects in Colombia. Natalia also volunteers there as a photographer and communicator. In the future, she sees herself focusing on her own natural reserve near Bogotá and applying photography and anthropology to work on social projects in her home country. Natalia isn’t finished broadening her horizons yet. Now that she is proficient in English, she would like to learn Italian.

Author: Milagros Lugo-Amador, Assistant Director

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