Embassy kid survival guide: how FSC junior grew up abroad

Caroline Bryant | The Southern Newspaper Photo courtesy of Jess Valdés | Valdés, FSC junior.

Diego De Jesus
The Southern Editor

Just blocks away from the turquoise Caribbean Sea, Jess Valdés enjoys a mochaccino frío surrounded by floor-to-ceiling wooden bookshelves with soft jazz music in the background. 

She’s in Ácabo, her favorite cafe in Cartagena, Colombia. It’s in an area with vibrant colors that seem to spill from the walls. 

Every morning she could see cruise ships docking from her balcony and would take strolls through the old colonial city as buskers performed. 

Her favorite pastime in the Magic City is to listen to the raindrops falling over tiled roofs with a good read in her hand in Ácabo. 

When inspiration strikes, she writes poetry inspired by her favorite memories of gardening flowers with her mother. Flowers are ubiquitous in Cartagena and are an essential part of her poetry. 

“I tie in the part about growth in that and like to write about my personal experiences of how I have had to change due to different events as a person,” Valdés said. “I also like to write about flowers as a real symbol of hope, how no matter what is happening in the world, there is always a flower blooming somewhere.” 

Every year she would take a short boat ride to Tierra Bomba, an island off the coast of Colombia, and teach students English for free. 

Valdés is a junior political science major who grew up as an embassy kid, the daughter of a U.S. diplomat serving at the embassy in Cartagena.  

“I came to Florida Southern because I absolutely fell in love with the architecture and how beautiful Lakeland was,” Valdés said. 

Before she came to FSC, Valdés moved with her family until they arrived in Cartagena, where she has family that she visits on breaks. 

Being an embassy kid was difficult. Valdés was originally born in San Jose, Costa Rica, but her family moved to the States when she was young. 

Her family ultimately landed in Cartagena, which made it difficult to make friends because she couldn’t speak Spanish. 

“At first, you can’t make friends with anyone else because as you don’t speak the language, you can’t talk to them, so since the embassy kids all spoke English, and we’re all around the same age we would hang out 24/7 and do everything together,” Valdés said. 

At one point, Valdés was in quarantine for 186 days in her apartment, which was especially difficult. But her community of embassy kids helped her through the difficult times.

Living in the US now has brought on multiple academic and business opportunities for Valdés.

Now in her junior year at FSC, Valdés knew she wanted an internship during the summer, so she could make a career out of it when she graduated. She wanted to work in finance, and when the Goldman Sachs internship opened up, she seized the opportunity. 

She was recently offered the internship  position at Goldman Sachs, where she’ll work in the Global Compliance Division for its Salt Lake City firm. 

“The Goldman Sachs summer internship is the #6 ranked most prestigious internships one can get in the States, so I am very honored and excited,” Valdés said. “Fingers crossed, I will be able to continue down this career path after college also.” 

The application process had three rounds, where the first was reviewing her resume, the second, a HireVue interview and the third, an invitation to Superday. 

Superday consists of three consecutive interviews. 

“Knowing how big of an opportunity it is, but also how hard it is to obtain, I prepared non-stop for a week,” Valdés said. 


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