Seizing the Moment on a Global Scale

Ana Valeria Vázquez Navas ‘24GS, a graduating senior, shares her GS journey, from Puerto Rico, to Reims, to New York City and beyond.

April 28, 2024

Before joining the Dual BA Program, Ana Valeria Vázquez Navas ‘24GS had spent her whole life in the same house in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Four years later, as she graduates with a degree in sustainable development,  Vázquez Navas shares how the expansive opportunities of the Dual BA have shaped her into the person she is today.

Tell us about your path to GS.

I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, spending my whole life in the same house, going to the same school, against a backdrop of socio-economic challenges and the unique experiences that come from living on a tropical island with its hurricanes and distinct territorial status with the US. My journey to where I am today has been marked by the unwavering support of my family and friends; I was incredibly fortunate to have people around that encouraged me to pursue a wide range of interests, from musical theater to representing my school at science fair competitions in China. I was always driven by a desire to make my family proud and to dive into new experiences with enthusiasm. 

As college applications deadline got close, I was set on attending a US college on the East coast, to not be so far from home. I was all set on that path until, out of curiosity, I started exploring universities in Europe just 12 days before my college application deadlines. That's when I stumbled upon Sciences Po in France (a school I hadn't heard of before) and its Dual BA Program with Columbia University. The idea of studying in two different countries was thrilling and so different to my expectations of my college experience. I remember my mom telling me to not apply as it was too far away, and I didn’t speak any French, but something inside me told me to do it, so I applied in secret and got in. I was so excited to discover what this unique program had to offer. 

Visiting Columbia for admitted students day sealed the deal for me; I fell in love with the campus, my favorite spot in the city. The enthusiasm and support from both the GS and Sciences Po staff convinced me that this was the right choice. Making the decision to join the program was tough, especially as a minor with no knowledge of French and having never lived anywhere but my same house in Puerto Rico. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing about my decision to join this incredible program. Maybe in another life I would have chosen Menton just to live by the beach, but I'd always return to Reims, a city I absolutely fell in love with.

Living and studying in both France and the US has been an enlightening journey, teaching me the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone and exploring the unknown. It is in these moments of uncertainty that the most rewarding experiences emerge. Along this path, I've met incredible people, enriching my perspective and understanding of a global citizen. I am so proud to be a Dual BA student, and so grateful for this program!

What has been your proudest accomplishment at Columbia?

Columbia flies by, especially for us Dual BA students who only get to spend two years here. Diving into everything Columbia has to offer, while being a junior but feeling like a freshman, sometimes made me feel like I couldn’t really achieve anything big. Between major requirements, job hunting, student clubs, internships, and the core, it felt like a lot! 

Last semester, I decided to get out of my routine and do something I love doing: singing. I auditioned for the 130th Varsity Show, a comedy musical about Columbia and one of Columbia’s oldest traditions. Making it into the cast has been one of my proudest moments and greatest experiences at Columbia. From rehearsing nearly every night, to spending time with incredibly talented Columbia students, we've created a show that unites the student body through laughter and music, all while conveying a powerful and hopeful message. Being part of this amazing production has been one of my greatest experiences at Columbia, and I'm super grateful to everyone involved. 

Who are some people who have contributed the most to your Columbia experience?

To my friends who have pushed me to go beyond and support me always, while having a lot of fun on the way: I am so grateful to have found you at Columbia. To Dean Jessica Sarles-Dinsick, thank you for your work and dedication to the Dual BA and helping me spread word about the amazing things about it! To Dr. Jenna Lawrence of Columbia Climate School, thank you for your advice on exploring intersections between science and policy and for your guidance during the sustainable development capstone project. And to everyone who has crossed paths with me at Columbia, in any capacity–from the chefs and security guards to the Puerto Ricans and women who grill–thank you! The incredible people on this campus are what make this university truly special.

What are your plans for after graduation?

Right after graduation, I'll join McKinsey & Company as a business analyst in their New York City office. My aim is to focus on food systems and sustainability. I am so glad to stay in the city with my friends and Columbia alumni!

What advice would you give to a student who's about to start their GS journey?

My primary piece of advice is to truly be present in the moment and appreciate what’s around you. Take full advantage of where you are right now and make an effort to meet the incredible people around you. Time at Columbia flies by incredibly fast, and striving to make and appreciate the most out of every day will leave you with unforgettable memories. The people here are truly amazing, so step out of your comfort zone and go find them! Life can change in an instant, so learning to appreciate the beauty of each day with courage and kindness has been one of the most valuable lessons I've learned here.

I feel incredibly grateful for the support I've received from both incoming and current students in the Dual BA program regarding their experiences and time at navigating this program. If there's anything I can do to help, please don't hesitate to reach out!