Over the years, El Lago del Bosque became Laura Sol Nuñez’s second home. She was about ten years old when she first attended a week at the Spanish Language Village. Sol spent seven summers as a villager, and then went on to work as a counselor for ten years. She was part of the first staff to work at the Bemidji site when it was finished in 2000.
Sol spent a year from 2006 to 2007 as a Fulbright scholar in Peru studying the impact of political decentralization on legislative policies on marginalized rural indigenous communities. This research was necessary to complete her Masters in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, and the Fulbright scholarship allowed her the support she needed to do her work.
One of Sol's professors pushed her to apply for the Fulbright after a trip to Bolivia as a senior in college. Her one week adventure in Peru during her junior year in college left her wanting to learn more, this time working on research in an indigenous Aymara community and teaching English on the side. Sol conducted interviews with members of the community in rural areas.
“I met the most important people of my life there,” says Sol. “The Fulbright year got me where I am today.”
While in Peru, she bought clothes and realia for Concordia Language Villages. “I helped set up the Pacha parallel program,” she says. “It represents indigenous communities. We converted a site near El Lago del Bosque into a small indigenous site.”
The Pacha program taught villagers about indigenous Spanish-speaking populations, with themed days exploring, for example, the Incas, or another of today’s modern indigenous cultures.
“I have a picture of me all dressed up for the indigenous program in earrings, pigtail braids, bowler hat and skirt,” Sol says. As part of the Pacha program she used the name Inti, the Quechua word for Sol.
Working for the Global Citizens Network, Sol continues to promote learning about indigenous people. “I never imagined I’d be living in Minnesota, sending people to indigenous cultures around the world.”
Volunteer groups with Global Citizens Network travel to live with an indigenous culture and get to know their way of life while working on a project in the community. Sol works on the logistics of the trips, such as helping volunteers sign-up, and communicating with community leaders in Latin America.
“It’s funny that I use Facebook to talk to a spiritual indigenous leader,” she says.
Sol's work often inspires youth to learn a new language, some even coming to Concordia Language Villages. “The volunteer groups get kids to recognize the importance of knowing another language because we’re taking them to the village where it’s needed. It’s a meaningful way to support language learning.”
The Fulbright Academy is a global organization established by alumni of the prestigious Fulbright Exchange Program and other members of the science and technology community. Since 2003, it has facilitated dialogue among researchers, educators and executives, and it serves as a virtual center for advanced study and innovation. The Fulbright Academy is an independent, non-profit organization with a focus on the advancement of science and technology and works with leaders in scientific fields as well as professionals in business, law, government and other disciplines, and works with individual and institutional members in more than 50 countries. Learn more at Institute of International Education.