Maribel’s story is a love story. The Bogota, Colombia native met her partner, a Vermonter, online and discovered a match worth pursuing. After he traveled to Colombia to meet Maribel, they became engaged and Maribel returned with her now-husband to Georgia, VT in 2019.
Maribel was a professional massage therapist in Bogota but needed to obtain her certification in the US to continue this work. She took a job at WalMart to support her pursuit of the certification and became determined to enhance her proficiency in English. When asked what the biggest barriers were for her as a New American, Maribel indicated language and navigating the health care system. “I didn’t realize you have to ask for everything and get approval!” she shared of her experience with getting an inhaler. “In Colombia, you can go straight to the pharmacy to get what you need.”
Maribel’s husband helped her seek out opportunities to learn English and discovered VAL’s English Language Learning (ELL) program. She began studying through the St. Albans Learning Center only to be interrupted by the pandemic. Maribel was determined to continue, however, and resumed her ELL work in early 2022. It was important to her that she have enough time and focus to dedicate to the course, and her dedication is paying off.
“I feel so much better about my English now than when I first got here,” Maribel shared. Some of her favorite expressions in English are “that’s nuts!” and “knock-on-wood.”
Maribel’s increasing fluency with English is thanks, in no small part, to her VAL ELL teacher, Leigh.
“Maribel has been a wonderful student, and we have many warm memories of her time here at VAL,” Leigh says of Maribel. “One of the best was our class reading of Walk Across America in which the author’s Malamute was featured. To our great surprise, Maribel turned up one day with a beautiful Malamute puppy. She has kept the class upbeat, exciting, and interesting for as long as we have known her. I will be sad to lose her as she is near completion of our Advanced level.”
“Leigh is so nice, patient, sweet – always so giving to the students,” Maribel beamed about her instructor. “She is always open and available if we need help. So supportive. Just a great human being – and so stylish! She has great energy and her personality is explosive!”
Now that Maribel has obtained her massage therapy certification in the US, she hopes to continue working towards a career as an esthetician. She especially loves doing facials and lashes. Her hope is to support her family back in Colombia and even get her brother to move to Vermont in the near future. Maribel encourages her brother to speak to her husband to encourage fully-immersive learning, no doubt inspired by her own success in learning English.