Spotlight on Students: Montserrat Vargas

By Becky Firesheets

This new reality of life in quarantine is challenging for all of us, but we don’t have to look far to find encouragement and motivation, especially when it comes to our students here at SLU. Montserrat Vargas, an adult learner currently enrolled in Worker Education’s Reading/Writing College Preparation course, recently shared her answers to a few questions about surviving quarantine life. As an immigrant, small business owner, and craftivist workshop leader, her perspective and positivity are especially valuable right now. Check out her inspirational words below, and learn more about her work, including Mujeres Stitchers Virtual Meet-Ups and custom-made embroidery kits, by visiting her website.

1. How are you adapting to online learning?

It has been a great gift to be able to keep participating in the CUNY SLU College Prep Program. The only challenge has been time management, my whole routine has changed and I’m still adapting to it. I had to modify my business plan to the current circumstances. Also, there is a load of mental stress, and that makes concentration a difficult task. Therefore my study routine also looks different.

But don’t get me wrong, I appreciate and feel very lucky to have these classes. Right now it’s like they keep me daydreaming and away from negativity.

2. What do you miss the most from life before quarantine?

I really miss having a sense of safety while you walk in the streets.

3. What is the most challenging aspect of quarantine for you?

I feel very privileged because I am able to work from home, but right now, getting out to walk our dog gives me a lot of anxiety. With my partner, we decided to change our dog routine and cut her times outside, but that hasn’t been easy since she’s very active. Another factor is that we live close to a park and unfortunately, there are still many runners and people walking on the streets, and some of them are not using masks or taking enough distance from each other. That sense of unsafety is what really makes this difficult and provokes the anxiety.

Besides that, my husband and I are immigrants, and during this difficult time, we would love to be able to spend time with our parents and take care of them. Being far away from our families, and not being able to take care of them, becomes a sort heavyweight that (like many) we are carrying in our shoulders.

But regardless of having a hopeless and anxious daily feeling, there’s a part of me that truly knows that we will react extremely well to any distressful situation, or even a catastrophe, because as immigrants, we adapt. As immigrants, we are resilient, and we can do everything in our power to help our families, confront any type of catastrophe, or just learn to be alone with our thoughts in self-isolation. We grow like desert flowers, bringing beauty and even humor even in the darkest moment, and we’re always raised by helping others.

4. What is the best thing about life under quarantine for you?

Chocolate! I am eating chocolate every single day, and there’s no guilt about it. Also, it’s so good to have an Internet connection. Thanks to technology, we are able to speak daily with our families that live in other countries, and we feel more connected now than ever. Besides that, there’s some sense of positivism that I appreciate to have around me, and I see many people making an effort to be kind and empathetic. We need positivism in daily doses during this grief and difficult time.

I must also add that I found myself very proud of my relationship with my husband. Working with your partner, figuring out domestic situations in an extreme environment, gives another layer of romanticism, awkwardness, and vulnerability that I think will cement our marriage even more.

5. What shows/movies are you watching?

We are watching all Marvel Universe movies in chronological order. Also Agent Carter, a television series created by Marvel as well.

6. What are you reading?

I am reading Feel Free by Zadie Smith and listening to the audiobook. Also The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.