A Uruguayan Writer’s Long Journey
by Valeria Fanelli
Neither the long distance between the U.S. and Uruguay, nor Chicago’s cold winters scared Ruth Camargo against moving to the Windy city, enrolling in a Master’s program in creative writing, and pursuing her dream to become a great fiction author.
Camargo, 32, moved to Chicago after she was admitted at Columbia College, in 2010.
In Uruguay, she used to be an English teacher and always wanted her students to improve their writing skills. So one day, she joined a writing course and while talking to her instructor, the idea of enrolling a Master’s program in the U.S. started to become a possibility.
“What happened is that the instructor said my stories where really cool and asked me if I had ever considered a creative writing program. I did not even know what that was and I did not even know there were writing programs abroad,” Camargo said. “He was the one who encouraged me to pursue a career in writing.”
Camargo had multiple concerns about moving the U.S. It took her about a year to prepare her manuscripts and all the application requirements. She knew how hard is the selection for admissions in North America and she tough she was not going to get admitted into the program.
“When I was admitted I was happy I proved myself I could do it, but then I did not have the money to move. My biggest challenge was to raise $30.000 to be able to access the program,” Camargo said.
She started putting together all the savings she had, “except for my kidneys,” she ironical said. She came with no money for her living but with the goal of getting a job, while studying full time. But the U.S. government puts many restrictions on foreign students. They are only allowed to get jobs in campus for no more than 20 weekly hours.
Camargo started working in campus and obtained some paid internships. Somebody from the Multicultural affairs at Columbia College noticed her and offered her a position there, where she could use her communication skills and earn some money while studying full time.
“I started to look for ways to cut my expenses. I got an approval for a student loan from Uruguay, but it was only for $10.000. I looked for a cheap place to live with other roommates and tried to arrange clothes for the winter,” she said.
The lack of money does not discourage Camargo to pursue her dreams. She is trying to live day by day and focus on affording one semester at the time.
She said she likes to study in Chicago, even though she was very surprised by the multi-ethnicity of the city.
“I did some research and my idea was that Chicago was going to be a very American city. But I guess I wasn’t sure of what that meant,” she said. “Even though I read a lot about the Windy city I was not sure about what to expect. But I was very excited still,” she said.
Camargo said she expected to hear a lot of English on the street, but she actually heard a lot of Spanish speakers. She was surprised that in such an American city, there is so much variety of cultures.
“I had one of my classmates telling me: ‘You are the most ethnic thing we have here.’ That was a huge contrast with what I experienced in academy and on the streets. It made me think of how segregated is this city,” she said.