International student sees beauty in cultural differences

Fabiana Zalazar-Vega, sophomore in apparel marketing, has lived in several places throughout the world and wants to spend her life continuing to travel. Some fashionable pieces she has collected from her travels is her bag from Ghana. (Allison Evans | The Collegian)

Fabiana Zalazar-Vega’s family has moved from Brazil to Senegal to Ghana throughout her life, allowing her to experience new languages, cultures and different ways of life. Originally from Paraguay, she has now settled in Manhattan as a sophomore in fashion marketing.

“I chose fashion as a career since it gives that opportunity of traveling so much. It is also one of the absolute best ways to study and understand culture and tradition.” – Zalazar-Vega

Zalazar-Vega recalls first hearing about K-State from her dad’s colleagues; they attended K-State and she said their experience sounded amazing.

“I gave a look through the K-State website and loved the colors and mascot and the architecture was nothing I had seen before,” Zalazar-Vega said.

Upon her arrival to Manhattan, she had her worries. In the end, however, the small size and close community ended up being what she was looking for.

“In high school, they told us university would be a lot bigger and it would be difficult to find a tight-knit community like we had,” Zalazar-Vega said. “(But) K-State is a family, like everyone says.”

In the time Zalazar-Vega has been at K-State, she has made an impact on her peers. Hattie Doolittle, junior in apparel and textiles, said that what she likes best about Zalazar-Vega is that she is so cultured and open-minded about everything.

“Being from another country and managing to go through rush and get into a house is impressive for just doing it for the experience,” Doolittle said. “We also share a lot of common interests like fashion and world travel. I think she’s a great addition to the K-State family and I’m very grateful I get to know her.”

Zalazar-Vega said she does not like to compare the places she has lived because they are all so different; instead, they each hold a special place in her heart.

“Every place I visited has its own beauty,” Zalazar-Vega said. “I am a city girl, but Manhattan is so relaxed and quiet, which I love.”

Living in so many places has given Zalazar-Vega a great appreciation for different cultures, specifically when it comes to fashion. This is one of the reasons she grew to love fashion and want to study it. Her family now lives in London and although going from London to Kansas can be fashionably different, she said that is what fashion is all about.

“It represents the values and cultures of a place,” Zalazar-Vega said.

She has experienced firsthand the many ways people can express their cultures through dress. Living in Senegal and Ghana, Zalalzar-Vega said she witnessed how fashion correlates with culture, such as with specific fabrics and ways of dressing. As far as life after graduation, she said she cannot see herself staying in one place for too long.

“Due to the lifestyle I’ve been exposed to growing up, I want to keep traveling and learning about other cultures,” Zalazar-Vega said. “That’s why I chose fashion as a career since it gives that opportunity of traveling so much. It is also one of the absolute best ways to study and understand culture and tradition.”

It is easy to see that Zalazar-Vega has a love and desire for new experiences and cultures. By studying fashion and her travels, she has already observed so much and cannot wait for the opportunity to be a part of more.

Giselle Guanes, sophomore in mechanical engineering, said that Zalazar-Vega is always looking for new experiences and knowledge.

“Fabiana is the type of person that is not scared of leaving behind her comfort zone and starting all over again,” Guanes said.

Zalazar-Vega said one of the main challenges she has faced at K-State is dealing with people who have ethnocentric values.

“There were times that it was definitely not easy to deal with those people since they think their culture is better than yours type of thing – and I’ve actually been bullied because of it – but I just ignore them since they are the ignorant ones who don’t embrace the difference of people,” Zalazar-Vega said. “They are given this amazing opportunity to coexist with so many diverse cultures, but instead they chose to shut their eyes and ears.”

When given the opportunity to be surrounded by people with different backgrounds and cultures, it can be hard to step outside of your comfort zone. That being said, remember that (as Zalazar-Vega puts it) you can miss an opportunity to learn about experiences you would have never known otherwise.