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Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Nataly Lovera Pestana Loves Travel, Home and NOVA

Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Nataly Lovera Pestana Loves Travel, Home and NOVA

As we wrap up the final days of Hispanic Heritage Month, we want to spotlight Nataly Lovera Pestana, a current NOVA accounting student who will be representing NOVA at the “One Diverse Industry” (ODI) conference. ODI is a non-profit that promotes programs conferences, events and webinars, featuring some of the biggest and most innovative leaders in media, tech and entertainment. Pestana is one of six NOVA students who ODI will sponsor to travel to New York for two days.  

Here, Pestana discusses “coming out” and appreciating her home country and background.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:
I am from Bogota, Colombia. As an international student here at NOVA, I came to the U.S. after discussing with my mom that I should travel after high school. I then got into an au pair program in the U.S., specifically in the Virginia region. I figured that this program would give me two years to figure things out after high school. When COVID happened, I realized I wanted to go back to school. After two years of working, I knew I wanted to start my studies again.

My girlfriend Camilla is finishing her degree in Colombia, and we are doing long-distance right now while I am in the U.S. Personally, “coming out” where I am from in Bogota, or another city like Medellin, it’s like a bubble, unlike other parts of Colombia. Where I am from, coming out is normal, especially for the youth. We are in an age where you don’t always assume someone is hetero–but when you leave big cities, it’s different. It’s very similar to going to rural parts of America.

I was really lucky, since my mom knew since I was young. When I decided to come out – her reaction was more of, “sure, I know.” For my girlfriend it was very different as her father was a pastor. Their reaction was more, “I can’t believe you’re doing that.” It was hard to hear that.

For me, my mom’s family is super supportive. Like when I first brought my girlfriend to my mom’s house, they treated her like family. I think with the new generation, it is going to change a lot. There is such a big understanding that different sexualities are normal, that it’s human beings doing human things.

For fun, I play the guitar and play other musical instruments like the piano and drums. I like to play soccer and my Xbox. I like to go out and hang with my friends. I have friends from my au pair years in the area and new friends at NOVA.

What brought you to NOVA?
After searching for colleges in the area while working as an au pair, I came across information about NOVA. I saw ads about NOVA, and applied during COVID, but I initially did not get my papers on time since I was on an F1 visa, but I needed a J1. I then went back to Colombia for six months, got my Visa and then came back to the U.S. again in August 2021 to start at NOVA with a focus in accounting.

Tell Us About Your Experience at NOVA; i.e., professors you’ve liked and friends you’ve met.
I think all of the professors that I’ve had are so good at what they do. Everyone I’ve seen here in the three semesters I’ve been here, have brought such a good support system to students. That is really cool that they do that. Specifically, Ms. Lucy Holsonbake is amazing.

What are you studying at NOVA?
In my first semester, I was an ESL student, and I am now in my second year with a focus on more accounting courses.

I really want to finish my degree and am considering the Cyber-BIT program that is new to NOVA. I have heard that you can take the courses and get the degree while staying in this area. Since it is a STEAM degree, I know it may allow me to be more eligible to continue to stay in the U.S.

I am really excited to represent NOVA at the One Diverse Industry Initiative conference in New York. I didn’t expect to be able to go to be a part of this program because, initially, communications classes were not a requirement of my major, but I took this communications course that led me to Ms. Lucy Holsonbake, and I was selected to go. I am super excited to go to this conference. It is going to be a good opportunity to meet people and get in touch with people. I get to learn and be with new people.

I love New York and have been three times. Where I am from in Bogota, it is similar.

What would you tell a student thinking about coming to NOVA?
I would tell them that this place is diverse, and it’s a great opportunity—especially when you are considering college right from high school, there is a lot of pressure. NOVA is a great place to start learning with endless possibilities. There are a lot of different options and pathways to take here at NOVA. Recently, I had a professor tell me about the Cyber-BIT program that I am now interested in. There are so many great advantages here. It’s a really good way to continue my education.

Where do you see yourself after NOVA or what career pursuits are you exploring?
After NOVA, I would like to continue to travel with my girlfriend, potentially around Europe. My girlfriend Camilla is finishing her degree in Colombia, and we are doing long-distance right now. I love that traveling teaches you to learn about yourself and to be open.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 75,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.

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